New fees and now a higher demand

by VCrouch
(Asheville, NC, USA)

My son (age 18) was caught shoplifting last fall. The store did not press charges but told him that he would be contacted about restitution. The amount of the items stolen totaled $180. The first demand letter was $330. He called to make payment arrangements and they told him he could pay it over 8 months and there would be a $5 charge to arrange the payment plan. They told him he needed to pay the first installment immediately over the phone and that there would be convenience fee of $12.50. He paid up - the 1st installment, $5 fee to arrange payments and the $12.50 convenience fee.

He has made 2 more monthly payments by check in the amount they specified. Now, we get a letter that states that he has "failed to make full payment after demand to do so." "At this point, you may settle this matter by making payment in the amount of $677.50 within 20 days." The letter goes on to state "Please keep in mind that a $5.00 installment fee is requested for each partial payment made." First we've heard of this!

The Credit/Debit Card Payment Slip enclosed with the initial letter clearly states that the convenience fee will be for each transaction - nothing indicates the $5.00 fee is per payment.

My son and I are going to call them this afternoon. I feel they misrepresented the monthly amount due. I propose we offer to pay them the $10 that was not paid and request they return to the initial demand amount.

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Mar 09, 2010
debt from shoplifting
by: Gerri

Thank you for submitting your debt collection question on our Q&A page.

I am sure your son knows he's very fortunate that he didn't go to jail for his crime, but at the same time this sounds almost "criminal" the way he is being shaken down for ever increasing payments!

I have no idea if the payments they are asking for are legal, but it doesn't sound correct to me. If I understand you correctly he he has a letter stating the amount he was to pay, and he then followed that arrangement. So where does this sudden inflation of the debt come from?

Please talk with a consumer law attorney who specializes in credit/debt collection matters. If he is dealing directly with the store, then the federal Fair Debt Collection Practices Act doesn't apply, but there may be a state law that does. Find out how to get FREE or low cost legal advice about debt collection from a consumer law attorney here.

Please let us know what the attorney has to say.

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