Disputing Information on Your Credit Report
Fair Credit Billing Act
The Fair Credit Billing Act (FCBA) gives consumers the ability to dispute billing errors on “open-end” accounts (such as credit cards and revolving charge accounts, like department store accounts). It does not cover loans or extensions of credit you repay on a fixed schedule. It covers things like:
- 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.
- Failure to post payments and other credits, such as returns.
- Failure to send bills to your current address. The creditor must receive your change of address, in writing, at least 20 days before the billing period ends.
- Charges for which you ask for an explanation or written proof of purchase.
Contacting the Creditor
In order to take advantage of the law’s consumer protections, you must write to the creditor at the address for “billing inquiries,” not the address for sending your payments. 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 you received the first bill containing the error. Send your letter by certified mail, return receipt requested, so you have proof that the creditor received it. Include copies (not originals) of sales slips or other documents that support your position. Keep a copy of your dispute letter.
The creditor must acknowledge your complaint in writing within 30 days after receiving it, unless the problem has been resolved. Then the creditor must resolve the dispute within two billing cycles (but not more than 90 days) after receiving your letter.
You may withhold payment on the disputed amount (and related charges) during the investigation. You must pay any part of the bill not in question, including finance charges on the undisputed amount. The creditor may not take any legal action or attempt to collect the disputed amount and related charges (including finance charges) during the investigation. The creditor may not threaten your credit rating or report you as delinquent while your bill is in dispute. However, the creditor may report that you are challenging your bill.
Disputes about the quality of goods and services are not “billing errors,” so the dispute procedure does not apply. However, if you buy unsatisfactory goods or services with a credit or charge card, you can take the same legal actions against the card issuer that you can take under state law against the seller. In order to take advantage of this protection regarding the quality of goods or services:
- The purchase must be for at least $50.
- You must have made the purchase in your home state or within 100 miles of your current billing address.
- You must first make a good faith effort to resolve the dispute with the seller.