Credit Card Billing Errors

Mistakes happen, but federal law helps correct them.

Your credit card issuer will provide you with a statement for each month in which there is a balance owed on your account. If you believe a statement contains an error, such as a charge for an item you didn't order, the federal Fair Credit Billing Act protects you. Here's how this law works:

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First, you must notify the creditor as soon as possible after you discover the suspected error, but no later than 60 days after you receive your statement. You must notify the creditor about the error in writing - a telephone call won't protect your rights.

Once the creditor receives your written notice of the problem, it has 30 days to acknowledge that it has received the billing error notice. Within 90 days of receiving your written notice, the creditor must either correct the billing error, or notify you that it has investigated your problem and either will not correct the alleged error or make only a partial correction, and explain the reasons for its decision. If the creditor exercises this option, you have the right to request any documentation which the creditor used to reach its decision.

While your claim is being investigated, you have the right to withhold payments relating to the disputed amount. If the creditor agrees that a mistake was made, it must credit your account for any amount which you paid due to the improper billing, along with any finance or late charges that were imposed.

If the creditor refuses to acknowledge the error after investigating your claim, it must allow you at least 10 days from the time it notifies you that it has rejected your claim in which to pay the disputed amount. If you still refuse to pay, the creditor can report you to a credit bureau as delinquent. But if you notify him in writing that your refusal to pay is based on your continued belief that the bill is incorrect, any report it makes to a credit bureau has to disclose that your refusal is based on a dispute about the bill's legitimacy.

Copyright 1999, ProSe Associates, Inc. All rights reserved.

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