What will happen if you ignore them? Most likely nothing. As far as I can tell, NOBODY in California has ever been sued for refusing to pay one of these civil demand letters.
The law firms that send out this garbage are nothing but bullies. They hope you will be scared into sending them money because they know darn well that they would only get about fifty bucks if they actually sued you.
They work on commission, keeping a percentage of what they collect, then sending the rest to the store. Expenses, like printing and postage, come out of their share, so they will cut their losses and move on to the next guy if they don't get a response from you.
On the other hand, if you acknowledge their letter in any way, they'll know they have a "live one" on the other end and will probably continue to hassle you.
This question comes up so often on Avvo that I've written a legal guide. Check out the link below this post.
Please understand that this is a general discussion of legal principles by a California lawyer and does not create an attorney/client relationship. It's impossible to give detailed, accurate advice based on a few sentences on a website (and you shouldn't provide too much specific information about your legal matter on a public forum like this, anyway). You should always seek advice from an attorney licensed in your jurisdiction who can give you an informed opinion after reviewing all of the relevant information.
Ignore the civil demand letter for shoplifting. Thousands of these letters are sent out every month. If you do not respond they move on to the next person on their list. They do not follow through and sue because it costs more to sue than the amount they can recover.
The consensus on Avvo is not to respond and they will go away.
The response given is not intended to create, nor does it create an ongoing duty to respond to questions. The response does not form an attorney-client relationship, nor is it intended to be anything other than the educated opinion of the author. It should not be relied upon as legal advice. The response given is based upon the limited facts provided by the person asking the question. To the extent additional or different facts exist, the response might possibly change. Attorney is licensed to practice law only in the State of California. Responses are based solely on California law unless stated otherwise.