Credit card companies are ever more vigilant for identity theft and fraud and often are quick to temporarily suspend a card and contact you if purchasing activity seems even a little suspicious.
It’s effective in protecting consumers from credit card fraud, but it doesn’t solve every problem. You could find mistakes on your credit card statement related to:
- two charges for the same transaction
- a charge for an item that was never delivered
- a charge for an item that was returned, but not credited back to you
- failure to record a payment you have made
- math errors
If you review your statement and find something that doesn’t add up, the first step is to call the toll-free customer service number on your credit card and point out the error. Though you should be sure to document who you talk with and what is said, this is often enough to set your account right.
But if a phone call is ineffective, you have rights under the federal Fair Credit Billing Act. Invoke these rights by writing a dispute letter to the creditor. It needs to reach your creditor within 60 days of receiving the first inaccurate bill, and should be sent by certified mail, return receipt requested.
An effective credit card dispute letter boils down to one word: facts. First provide the relevant basic information, such as your name, the merchant name and the credit card account number. Explain exactly what you believe the mistake is and how much it is for. Describe dates, amounts and any actions you have taken that may support your position, and include supporting documentation such as photocopies of receipts.
Also, be sure to state exactly what action you expect the creditor to take. A review of your situation is required by law when a dispute letter is submitted, so it’s not necessary to ask for that. Instead, state your desired outcome — for example, that you would like a second charge for the same item removed from your statement, along with any related interest charges, and to be sent a copy of a corrected statement. Be polite, precise and specific.
What Should Not Be in a Credit Card Dispute Letter?
Avoid emotional responses or name-calling in a dispute letter. Undoubtedly you are frustrated after your first attempt at correcting an error was unsuccessful. While the company is bound by law to review your case based on facts, straying from those facts to vent your anger at the credit card company is not helpful. Let your family members or friends be a sounding board for your frustration.
A dispute letter is also not an avenue to complain about goods and services you received, or didn’t receive, from the company. The Fair Credit Billing Act allows you to only address billing errors, even if the disputed charge is directly related to the goods or services. Direct those complaints to a manager of the business while you send your dispute letter to the bank or financial institution backing the credit card.
After Your Letter Is Delivered
The creditor has 30 days to acknowledge receiving your letter, and then two billing cycles to address your dispute. You are not liable for the charge in question during that review, but you are still expected to pay other charges and fees in accordance with your terms.
You should receive a written response of the creditor’s determination of your dispute, whether or not it’s in your favor. If your dispute is denied you may still challenge, but expect that the creditor might initiate a collection process.
Filing a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission, or a lawsuit against a creditor which violates in the FCBA in any way, could be options. Contact Lyngklip & Associates, Southfield consumer law attorneys, for a free consultation regarding your situation. Call (248) 562-6187 or fill out our online form to begin the process.