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Billed for Merchandise You Never Received?

You found the perfect set of linens in a mail order catalog. You call to place your order and charge it to your credit card. You're told that your linens should arrive in two weeks. Two weeks go by, then three and four, and still no linens. What you do get is your credit card bill with a charge from the catalog company.

So, just what do you do when you get a credit card bill but no merchandise? Get frustrated, to be sure.

But the error can be corrected. The Fair Credit Billing Act (FCBA) and the Mail or Telephone Order Merchandise Rule offer protections and procedures for consumers so they don't have to pay for merchandise they ordered but never received.

In addition, many credit card issuers have policies against merchants charging a credit card account before shipment. If you think a merchant charged your account prematurely, report it to the credit card issuer. Otherwise, the credit card issuer has no way to know that the merchant is not complying with its policies.

THE FAIR CREDIT BILLING ACT

To dispute a billing error on your credit card, you must:

  • Write to the credit card issuer at the address for "billing inquiries," not the address for sending your payments (the address for billing inquiries is often found on the back of your most recent monthly statement); include your name, address, account number and a description of the billing error. A sample letter is included on page 3.
  • Send your letter so that it reaches the credit card issuer within 60 days after the first bill containing the error was mailed to you.
  • Send your letter by certified mail, return receipt requested, so you have proof of what the credit card issuer received. Include copies (not originals) of sales slips or other documents that support your position. Keep a copy of your dispute letter.
  • It is important to send the letter to the correct company. In the case of Visa and MasterCard, you should send it to the bank that issued the card.

The credit card issuer must acknowledge your complaint in writing within 30 days after receiving it, unless the problem has already been resolved. And the credit card issuer must resolve the dispute within two billing cycles (but not more than 90 days) after receiving your letter.

(continue on to Billed for Merchandise You Never Received? What Happens When Your Bill Is in Dispute)...

American Consumer Credit Counseling (ACCC) is a non-profit organization providing free credit counseling, low-cost debt management services and homebuyer education to first time house buyers as well as those re-entering the housing market. Available on desktops, laptops and mobile devices, ACCC's online home buyer course provides help for first time buyers and the certification required to close on certain loans. ACCC's online home buyers course provides everything buyers need to know about purchasing a home – from working with realtors to preparing for closing. In addition to a first home buyers course, ACCC also offers counseling for consumers considering reverse mortgage solutions, with information about qualifying for a reverse mortgage and answers to questions like "How do reverse mortgages work?"

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