If you’ve ever been billed for merchandise that you returned or never received, or if your credit card company charged you twice for an item or didn’t post a payment to your account, there are steps you can take to correct these errors. .
The Fair Credit Billing Act applies to “open” credit accounts, such as credit cards, and revolving charge accounts, such as department store accounts. It does not cover installment contracts: loans or extensions of credit that you pay on a fixed schedule. People often buy cars, furniture, and major appliances on the installment plan, as well as pay off personal loans on the installment plan.
The Fair Credit Billing Act applies only to disputes about “billing errors.” For example:
– Unauthorized charges. Federal law limits your liability for unauthorized charges to $50;
charges that list the wrong date or amount.
– Charges for goods and services that you did not accept or that were not delivered as agreed.
– Mathematical errors.
– Failure to record payments and other credits, such as refunds.
– Not sending bills to your current address, assuming the creditor has your change of address, in writing, at least 20 days before the end of the billing period.
– Charges for which you request a written explanation or proof of purchase, along with a claimed error or clarification request.
To take advantage of the law’s consumer protections, you must:
– Send your letter so that it reaches the creditor within 60 days of the first bill with the error that was mailed to you. It’s a good idea to send your letter by certified mail; Ask for a receipt so you have proof of what the creditor received. Include copies (not originals) of sales receipts or other documents that support your position. Keep a copy of your dispute letter.
– The creditor must acknowledge receipt of your complaint, in writing, within 30 days of receipt, unless the problem has been resolved. The creditor must resolve the dispute within two billing cycles (but no more than 90 days) after receiving your letter.
You may withhold payment of the disputed amount (and related charges) during the investigation. You must pay any portion of the bill that is not in dispute, including finance charges on the undisputed amount.
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