The federal Fair Credit Billing Act (FCBA) has established a process by which you can resolve such problems, and it provides special protections while you are pursuing the process. You should check your bank and credit card statements to make sure they are accurate, your account balance is correct, and that there are no unauthorized charges or other errors on the statements.
The FCBA applies only to "billing errors," including:
- Unauthorized charges
- Charges that list the wrong date or amount
- Charges for goods and services you did not accept or were not delivered as agreed
- Math errors
- Failure to post payments and other credits
- Failure to send bills to your current address
- Charges for which you ask for an explanation or written proof of purchase along with a claimed error or request for clarification
There are certain steps you must take in order to receive the FCBA’s consumer protections:
- Write to the creditor at the "billing inquiries" address, 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 bill containing the error was first sent to you;
- Send your letter by certified mail with a return receipt so that you have proof of what the creditor received (keep copies of sales slips or other documents and a copy of your dispute letter);
- The creditor must acknowledge your complaint in writing within 30 days of receipt, unless it has been resolved; and
- The dispute must be resolved within two billing cycles (and no more than 90 days) after receipt of your letter.
While your bill is in dispute, you may withhold payment of the disputed amount. Also, a creditor may not threaten your credit rating or report while your bill is in dispute.
The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) enforces the FCBA for most creditors, but not banks. The FTC’s goal is to prevent fraudulent, deceptive, and unfair business practices in the marketplace. It also seeks to provide information to help consumers spot, stop, and avoid such practices. The FTC may enter fraud-related complaints into an online database, which is available to civil and criminal law enforcement agencies in the United States.
The FTC, in response to complaints by consumers and others, will bring actions against a company by itself. A qualified lawyer may help you understand the law and can better inform you on what steps you must take in filing a complaint.