LAYTON – A collection agency has restored the damaged credit for a Layton couple who was charged $3,500 for making a negative comment about an online retailer.
For Jen and John Palmer, the fight over their credit rating may be over but their battle with KlearGear isn’t.
Jen Palmer and her husband John have suffered a lot from the effects of a negative credit report filed by KlearGear, an online retailer based in Michigan.
The Davis County couple never thought a sincere, warranted comment about an online store would generate so much attention - or so much inconvenience.
A few weeks before Christmas back in 2008, John Palmer ordered a small desk toy and key chain from KlearGear, a website based in Michigan. The couple lived in Bountiful at the time.
The order, including shipping — cost less than $20. He paid for it through PayPal.
After the order did not arrive in time for the holiday, John tried calling KlearGear to speak to someone about the problem. His efforts were unsuccessful. After several attempts to contact KlearGear via email, Jen also never received an answer.
A few months later in March 2009, Jen entered a negative review of KlearGear on RipOffReport.com.
More than three years later in May of 2012, John received an email from KlearGear stating that he had violated a "non-disparagement clause" and demanded that he or his wife remove the comment from RipOffReport.com within 72 hours. The email sent from a "KlearGearLegal" address also warned that if the post were not removed immediately, the Palmers would be fined $3500.
Since RipOffReports does not remove posts (except in the case of errors), Jen's comment and negative report stayed there.
Sure enough, a few months later, the Palmer's credit was damaged after the Fidelity collection agency reported them to credit reporting bureaus.
The credit situation made life pretty tough for the Palmers, especially when their furnace failed, forcing them to wait until they could save enough money to replace it. They have also been unable to get car loans or a new mortgage in order to sell their home or buy another one.
The Palmers filed suit in Utah's federal court on in December against KlearGear with the help of The Public Citizen Litigation Group, a Washington D.C.-based law firm that specializes in consumer protection cases.
The suit calls for declaratory judgment against KlearGear, while alleging that the company violated the Fair Debt Reporting Act. The suit also accuses the company of defamation, and the complaint asks the court to reward the Palmers punitive damages for reporting an invalid debt and causing them emotional and physical distress.
Public Citizen Litigation Group attorney Scott Michelman said the "non-disparagement" clause did not exist at the time of John's purchase, nor would it have been legal had it been there 5 year ago.
Michelman told the Clipper that even though the Palmers’ credit and good name have been restored, the fight with KlearGear is not over.
“We’re very happy their credit has been restored,” said Michelman. “But it doesn’t right the wrong.”
Jen Palmer told the Clipper she and her husband are pleased that Fidelity decided to “do the right thing.”
“This definitely helps,” said Palmer. “We’re finally able to move forward.”
Palmer added, “KlearGear still has to answer for what they did.”
Now that they are able to sell their home and buy another, the Palmers’ credit relief is only part of their saga.
“No one should ever have to go what we went through,” said Palmer, who said she is hoping for relief from the courts.
Though their lawsuit against KlearGear does not specify any particular amount of damages, Jen Palmer says her family was “never after money.”
“The issue is more substantive than financial,” said Palmer.
Even so, Palmer added, “How do you quantify fear?”
Palmer spoke of the fear of worrying about whether her child was warm enough or if she and her husband would ever be able to have financial freedom.
Michelman says KlearGear still has to answer for all the trouble they caused the Palmers.
“We want to send a message that you can’t bully or harass customers,” he said. “We want the Court to recognize that.”
Michelman also added that even though Fidelity has been dropped from the lawsuit, the case will go forward as the Palmers seek a claim for damages.
Michelman said KlearGear has yet to respond to the suit.
The Clipper was unable to reach KlearGear for comment.