SALT LAKE CITY -- A Utah couple have sued an online retailer over a $3,500 charge the company assessed after one of them wrote a negative review concerning its customer service.
John and Jennifer Palmer of Layton filed the lawsuit earlier this month in U.S. District Court in Salt Lake City against KlearGear.com based in Grandville, Mich.
The company did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
According to the complaint, the couple's problems began when John Palmer's order of less than $20 for a desk toy and a key chain for his wife in December 2008 never arrived.
The couple said the order was canceled after they were unsuccessful in attempts to reach KlearGear, and Jennifer Palmer then posted a critical review about the company's customer service on RipoffReport.com.
RipoffReport.com has a policy of not removing posted reviews, the suit adds, and KlearGear later hurt the couple's credit rating by reporting their failure to pay the $3,500 to credit bureaus.
The couple said their poor credit rating delayed a car loan and prevented them from securing a loan for a broken furnace. They also have been deterred from refinancing their home or selling their house and buying a new one, the suit says.
Their attorney, Scott Michelman, said the case is about protecting consumers' rights to free speech. "This case is really important because businesses should not be able to silence their customers," Michelman, who is with the nonprofit Public Citizen Litigation Group based in Washington, told the Standard-Examiner of Ogden.
"We want to make sure that this never happens to anybody else again," Jennifer Palmer told The Salt Lake Tribune.
Founded in 2001 as a computer products cataloger and e-commerce retailer, KlearGear.com has expanded its product line to include computer-themed giftware, apparel, gadgets, and one-of-a-kind private label merchandise, according to its website.