Consumer Law

Is Retail Civil Recovery Getting Out of Hand?

Civil recovery, now an available recourse for retailers in all 50 states, is turning the bedrock legal concept of innocent until proven guilty on its head.

So says a New York Daily News consumer columnist, who notes that critics complain that the country’s civil recovery process, left unchecked, has become a form of debt collection without federal safeguards.

Columnist Asa Aarons notes that once a retailer hands over a suspected shoplifter’s name to lawyers or debt collectors, the accused faces multiple letters and phone calls, many of which may threaten litigation.

The pursuit of economic recovery often persists even if the suspected shoplifter is found not guilty or if the merchandise in question is returned or recovered, the column states.

The Wall Street Journal reported in February about a judge’s complaint to the Florida bar about the content of a demand letter (PDF posted by Wall Street Journal) written by the civil recovery law firm Palmer Reifler & Associates, based in Orlando, Fla. The bar dismissed his complaint, one of five it had received about that firm that year.

Updated at 1 p.m. to include links to related story.

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