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Billed for Merchandise You Never Received? What Happens While Your Bill is in Dispute

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You may withhold payment on the disputed amount (and related charges), during the investigation, but you must pay any part of the bill not in question, including any finance charges on the undisputed amount.

The credit card issuer may not take any legal or other action to collect the disputed amount and the related charges (including finance charges) during the investigation. While your account cannot be closed or restricted, the disputed amount may be applied against your credit limit.

You placed an order with a catalog company and they charged your credit card immediately. The catalog company contacts you two weeks later and says the shipment will be delayed 60 days. You agree to the delay. The 60 days have passed and you don't have the merchandise. Can you still dispute the charge?

Maybe. In delayed shipment situations, credit card issuers often are more generous when they calculate the time for allowing disputes. To take advantage of this flexibility, include the following information in your dispute letter.

  • Tell the credit card issuer if the premature charge was unexpected. Some credit card issuers make an exception to the general industry rule against merchants charging before shipping if the merchant tells you about its practice at the time of sale. If you're certain the merchant said nothing or wasn't clear about its charge practice, the credit card issuer is more likely to allow the dispute.
  • Tell the credit card issuer when delivery was expected. In no delivery situations, some credit card issuers will use the expected date of delivery rather than the charge date as the start time for you to dispute charges. If you dispute the charge within a reasonable time after the expected delivery date passes, chances are good that the credit card issuer will honor the dispute. When you order or when a merchant notifies you of delayed shipment, it's important to keep a record of the promised shipment or delivery date. Include a copy of any documentation of the shipment or delivery date when disputing the charge with your credit card issuer.


The consumer protections for a debit card fall under the Electronic Fund Transfer Act and may differ from protections for a credit card under the FCBA. So you may not be able to dispute a debit and get a refund for nondelivery or late delivery. Still, some debit card issuers voluntarily offer protections and solutions to problems like the failure to receive merchandise bought with a debit card. Contact your debit card issuer for more information about particular policies and protections.


If you financed your purchase through the merchant, you also may have protections under state and federal law. Check your credit contract for the following language: Notice: Any holder of this consumer credit contract is subject to all claims and defenses which the debtor could assert against the seller of goods or services obtained with the proceeds hereof. It means that you may be able to claim that the seller failed to deliver the goods as stated in your credit contract.

(continue on to Billed for Merchandise You Never Received? Sample Dispute Letter)...

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