Disputing credit card charges

Have you ever been billed for merchandise you either returned or never received? Has your credit card company ever charged you twice for the same item or failed to credit a payment to your account? While frustrating, these errors can be corrected. It takes a little patience and knowledge of the dispute settlement procedures provided by the Fair Credit Billing Act (FCBA).

The law applies to “open end” credit accounts, like credit cards, and revolving charge accounts, like department store accounts. It doesn’t cover installment contracts – loans or extensions of credit you repay on a fixed schedule. People often buy cars, furniture, and major appliances on an installment basis, and repay personal loans in installments, as well.

Billing errors — The FCBA settlement procedures apply only to disputes about billing errors.” For example:

  • Unauthorized charges. Federal law limits your responsibility for unauthorized charges to $50;

  • Charges that list the wrong date or amount;

  • Charges for goods and services you didn’t accept or that weren’t delivered as agreed;

  • Math errors;

  • Failure to post payments and other credits, like returns;

  • Failure to send bills to your current address – assuming the creditor has your change of address, in writing, at least 20 days before the billing period ends; and

  • Charges for which you ask for an explanation or written proof of purchase, along with a claimed error or request for clarification.

Exercise your rights — To take advantage of the law’s consumer protections, you must:

  • Write to the creditor at the address given for “billing inquiries,” not the address for sending your payments, and include your name, address, account number, and a description of the billing error.

  • Send your letter so that it reaches the creditor within 60 days after the first bill with the error was mailed to you. It’s a good idea to send your letter by certified mail; ask for a return receipt so you have proof of what the creditor received. Include copies (not originals) of sales slips or other documents that support your position. Keep a copy of your dispute letter.

The creditor must acknowledge your complain, in writing, within 30 days after receiving it, unless the problem has been resolved. The creditor must resolve the dispute within two billing cycles (but not more than 90 days) after getting your letter.

Neighborhood Home Solutions (NHS) offers free assistance in disputing credit card charges. Please call us at 727-821-6897, visit our website www.nhsfl.org, or come by the office at 1600 Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. St. S., St. Petersburg.

NHS is a 501 (c) (3) HUD approved nonprofit housing counseling organization. Services are provided free of charge. Partners include the U. S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), HomeFree USA, Florida Hardest-Hit Fund, Pinellas County Community Development, and the City of St. Petersburg. Sources for this article include the Federal Trade Commission (FTC).
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