Thursday, April 21, 2005

California Small Claims Court: The Great Equalizer for Consumers

There are many times when consumers face situations where they have received improper service or defective products. In many cases, consumers will give up because the amount of money involved is not worth pursuing or they just do not want the hassle. However, two recent personal experiences have shown me how powerful the small claims court can be in dealing with businesses that have cheated consumers.

Case Study No. 1

I made hotel reservations through a very popular online reservation service. When I arrived at the hotel, I presented my credit card for payment and incidentals. Shortly thereafter, I started receive duplicate bills from billing service hired by the reservation website. I disputed the charges and instructed them not to contact me anymore.

Despite my instructions, the continued to call and harass me about the debt. They even called me at 8:15 a.m. on Mother's Day to demand payment.

I sued the website and their billing service for harassment in California small claims court for harassment and violation of the Federal Fair Debt Collection Practices Act. My hotel bill was $330, but I settled the lawsuit for $1050 and the defendants agreed to remove any negative information from my credit history.

Case Study No. 2

I responded to a balance transfer offer from a credit card company to take advantage of lower interest rates. However, I changed my mind after I received the balance transfer check and returned it to the credit card company without cashing it.

Even though I returned check, the credit card company insisted on charging me interest. After several months of trying to resolve the issue, I finally sued the credit card company in small claims to resolve the issue. All I wanted was an agreement that I had a zero balance and to remove any negative information from my credit report. I successfully settled the case before the trial and got everything that I had requested.

A small claims lawsuit is not always the answer, but it does give consumers a powerful tool to level the playing field if you receive poor service or improper treatment.

Please feel free to contact us if you need a legal consultation for your small claims matter. Click here for an informative article on how to present your small claims case. Click here for an article on how to collect your small claims judgment.

This publication is NOT INTENDED TO SERVE AS A SUBSTITUTE FOR LEGAL ADVICE. Please consult with a licensed attorney if you require legal advice.

About the Author: Carl H. Starrett II has been a licensed attorney since 1993 and is a member in good standing with the California State Bar and the San Diego County Bar Association. Mr. Starrett practices in the areas of bankruptcy, business litigation, construction, corporate planning and debt collection.

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