What if someone steals my identity? What if a charge appears on my credit card that is not mine? What if a merchant overcharges me or charges me twice for what should be a one time charge? We read in the Dallas paper on a regular basis about identities being stolen, unknown charges showing up on credit card statements, unknown people making charges on our credit cards.
These and other similar risks are reasons that you should carefully review your credit card statement every month.
The Fair Credit Billing Act (FCBA) covers these and similar situations. Although your first instinct may be to call the credit card company or send an email, and this may be acceptable for a first notice, best practice is to follow up by sending a written letter and mailing it certified mail, return receipt requested to the credit card company. Be sure to send your dispute to the address on your credit card bill which is specified for billing disputes, not the address for payment. And it is not a bad idea to call the merchant first.
The FCBA requires a written dispute within 60 days of the statement in which the error appears. If the use of the card is unauthorized, the time limit does not apply, and, although written notice is not required, it is a good practice to get your dispute in front of someone who can resolve the problem.
What type of billing errors may be disputed under the FCBA?
- A transaction not made by the consumer or for the wrong amount
- unauthorized use
- improper identification of a transaction
- goods or services not accepted by the consumer
- failure to include a payment or other credit to the account
- computational or accounting error
When the credit card company receives your written dispute, it is required to investigate and report back to you within 2 billing cycles or no later than 90 days.
Payment of the disputed amount may be withheld IF
- the disputed amount has not already been paid
- you have made a good faith effort to resolve the matter directly with the merchant
- the disputed amount is $50 or more
- the goods or services were bought in your home state or within 100 miles
Be sure to pay the portion of your credit card bill that is not disputed.
Once two billing cycles (or no later than 90 days) have run, the creditor is prohibited from reversing any corrections to your account related to the billing error you brought to its attention.
If your efforts to dispute billing errors or unauthorized use are unsuccessful, the FCBA does provide a cause of action against the credit card company. If you are in the Dallas area, please call me to review your case.