If you were to discover a billing error on your credit card statement, the first thing you would probably do is call to notify the creditor. But, to avoid having to pay the maximum $50 liability (in the case of a stolen or lost card), you must write to the issuer restating what you said over the phone to the creditor.
Even if this concerns only a straightforward billing error, be sure to follow the same procedure. To be covered under the Fair Credit Billing Act, you must report the error in writing within 60 days of the postmark on your statement.
Steps to Take
- Phone the creditor immediately.
- Write to the creditor and send the letter by certified mail to the address listed on your statement for billing inquiries (which may differ from where you send your payment) with a return receipt requested.
- In the letter, include your name, account number, the amount and date of the error, and the reason why you believe it is an error.
- Include copies of sales slips or other documents that support your position.
- Request evidence of the credit card charge (often just a photocopy of the charge slip).
- Keep copies of all documentation for yourself.
The law requires the creditor to investigate your error claim and inform you in writing that they are doing so, within 30 days. The creditor must resolve the matter within two billing cycles or a maximum of 90 days of receiving your notification of the error. While the investigation is in progress, you do not have to pay the amount in question or any interest on it. The disputed amount cannot be reported to a credit agency as delinquent. However, be sure to continue paying any remaining charges.
In Case of a Dispute
If the merchant who has billed the amount in question argues that it is a valid charge, you can continue to dispute the charge by requesting documents to support the merchant’s claim of validity and making your case to the issuer again. If the creditor rules that the merchant’s assertion is valid, they must provide a reason. The charge will then be put back on the statement, at which time you will have
10 days (or your normal grace period) to either pay or protest the charge in a written statement.
At this point, if you have not paid the disputed amount, the charge can be reported to credit agencies as delinquent. However, you can request that a notation be added to your credit reports that there is an ongoing dispute. You have the right to request information about who has received notification of the delinquency. When the dispute is finally resolved, all who have been previously notified of the delinquency must be notified of the resolution.
The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) works for the consumer to prevent fraudulent, deceptive, and unfair business practices in the marketplace and to provide information to help consumers spot, stop, and avoid them. To file a complaint or to learn more about consumer issues, visit www.ftc.gov or call toll-free at 1-877-FTC-HELP.