Fair Credit Billing
Have you ever been billed for merchandise you 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, such as credit cards, and revolving charge accounts - such as department store accounts. It does not cover installment contracts - loans or extensions of credit you repay on a fixed schedule. Consumers often buy cars, furniture and major appliances on an installment basis, and repay personal loans in installments as well.
WHAT TYPES OF DISPUTES ARE COVERED?
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 weren't delivered as agreed;
- math errors;
- failure to post payments and other credits, such as returns;
- failure to send bills to your current address - provided the creditor receives 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.
OTHER BILLING RIGHTS
Businesses that offer "open end" credit also must:
- give you a written notice when you open a new account - and at certain other times - that describes your right to dispute billing errors;
- provide a statement for each billing period in which you owe - or they owe you - more than one dollar;
- send your bill at least 14 days before the payment is due - if you have a period within which to pay the bill without incurring additional charges;
- credit all payments to your account on the date they're received, unless no extra charges would result if they failed to do so. Creditors are permitted to set some reasonable rules for making payments, say setting a reasonable deadline for payment to be received to be credited on the same date; and
- promptly credit or refund overpayments and other amounts owed to your account. This applies to instances where your account is owed more than one dollar. Your account must be credited promptly with the amount owed. If you prefer a refund, it must be sent within seven business days after the creditor receives your written request. The creditor must also make a good faith effort to refund a credit balance that has remained on your account for more than six months.