The Fair Credit Billing Act provides a way for consumers to dispute charges on their credit accounts and temporarily withhold payment without their credit score taking a hit as a result. If you’ve been charged for a product or service that you did not purchase, or you were overcharged for an item you did buy, the Act is designed to protect you by giving you certain rights.
Under the law, borrowers can dispute the charges and refuse to make a payment on them while keeping their credit score intact. Under the Act, credit card companies and issuers must investigate any charge a customer disputes and correct them if it’s found the charge is in fact, incorrect. So, what rights, protections, and obligations does the Act impose? Below are the six most important of these that you should know.
You Have 60 Days to Report the Dispute
When there is a mistake on your credit card statement, you can dispute it with the credit card company. It’s important to understand, though, that you have 60 days from the time the company mailed the bill, not 60 days after you receive it. If you don’t dispute the charge within this time, you will likely be responsible for paying it. Although the credit card company may still forgive that portion of the debt, they are not legally obligated to do so.
For this reason, it is essential that every time you receive a credit card bill, you fully review it and ensure that you incurred all charges on it. Too many people receive these every month, assume they’re right, and leave them in the closed envelope until the next one comes in and they do the exact same thing. When they do, they often end up paying more for their bills than they need to.
Mail Your Dispute, Don’t Call It In
When notifying the credit card company of your dispute, you must mail it in. Anything important should always be in writing, and this includes disputes involving credit charges. If you’re unsure of how to write a dispute letter, the Federal Trade Commission has a sample on its website, but you could always ask an attorney, too. Also, send the letter by certified mail to ensure the credit card company receives it. If you have proof of the dispute, such as a receipt for the $50 item you purchased but were charged $500 for, include a copy of this in your letter.
Wait a Few Months
Under the law, credit card companies must investigate any dispute you make. They must also acknowledge it and inform you that they will conduct an investigation within 30 days. The investigation could take some time, but credit card companies must resolve the dispute within two complete billing cycles. While the dispute is still being investigated, the credit card company is not allowed to report the payment to credit report bureaus as being late, and they cannot continue to try and collect it. Remember, however, you are liable for paying the rest of your bill. It’s only the disputed item that you do not have to pay for.
You Have the Right to Challenge
If, after the credit card company performs its investigation, you still disagree with the decision they have reached, you have the right to dispute it. After the investigation, if the credit card company finds you are responsible for the charge, it must provide you with a written explanation of why. However, it can resume collection action on the debt.
If you disagree with the result of the investigation, you have the right to challenge it, but you must do this within 10 days of receiving the written explanation. When the lender receives your letter challenging the findings, they must include a note on your credit report that states the charge is still being disputed. This may or may not help you. If other debtors think the charge makes sense, they may still hold it against you.
If you don’t think the lender performed a thorough and in-depth investigation and you disagree with the results, you can also ask for proof of their investigation and any material it used to reject your claim.
You Can Call the Lender for a Lost, Stolen, or Unauthorized Use
Although you should send a letter when you dispute a credit card charge, you should call your credit card company as soon as you suspect a lost or stolen card, or think someone has used it without proper authorization. Under the FCBA, you are only liable for $50 of fraudulent charges if you report the unauthorized use. Many credit card companies will even waive this charge. If a person has only used your credit card number and not the actual card, you are not liable for any of the charges.
You Don’t Have to Pay if You’re Unhappy With a Purchase
For the most part, the FCBA protects consumers who want to dispute charges that they didn’t incur. However, if you use your credit card to make a purchase and you’re not completely happy with it, the FCBA also provides protection for this. You can file a complaint about the quality of the service or product you purchased, and then delay making a payment until your complaint is resolved. However, you have to take your complaint to the merchant first before filing a dispute with the credit card company.
Creditors Not Upholding Your Rights? Call Our Florida Debt Defense Lawyers
When you’re being charged for purchases you did not make, you shouldn’t be held liable for paying for them. If a creditor refuses to uphold your rights guaranteed by the FCBA, it’s important that you speak to a Fort Lauderdale debt defense lawyer right away. At Loan Lawyers, we know how to hold creditors and debt collectors accountable for ensuring your rights are upheld. We also know you shouldn’t have to pay for charges you did not incur. If you have a dispute, call us today at (954) 523-HELP (4357) for a free consultation.
Loan Lawyers has helped over 5,000 South Florida homeowners and consumers with their debt problems, we have saved over 2,000 homes from foreclosure, eliminated more than $100,000,000 in mortgage principal and consumer debt, and have recovered over $10,000,000 on behalf of our clients due to bank, loan servicer, and debt collector violations. Contact us for a free consultation and find out more about our money-back guarantee on credit card debt buyer lawsuits, and how we may be able to help you.