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Advance Health Care Decisions

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Other Consumer Issues:

Insurance (non-health)
Credit Cards
Identity Theft

3. Credit Card Billing Errors

When billing errors occur, as they are bound to do with the millions of credit card charges made every day, cardholders have rights. Part of the federal Consumer Credit Protection Act protects consumers when mistakes happen, and legitimate businesses want to correct errors. But consumers have responsibilities as well as rights.

Notify the card issuer within sixty days. Examine every statement promptly to be sure each transaction is one you made or authorized. If after careful review you cannot recall a transaction or there is an obvious error, act promptly to protect your rights:

  1. Notify the credit card issuer, in writing, within 60 days from the date of the statement on which the disputed charge first appears.
  2. State your name, account number, identify the charge you dispute, briefly explain why you think it is wrong, and request documentation. Examine your statement to see if it includes instructions for notifying the company of errors; the address for notices may be different from the bill payment address. Be sure your notice is legible, and keep copies of everything.

The company must respond within thirty days. You should hear from the credit card company in writing within thirty days from the time it receives your notice that it received your notice and is investigating. Within two billing cycles (but not more than ninety days) the company must notify you in writing either (a) that it confirmed the charge was incorrect and credited your account for it and any related finance charges, or (b) that it believes there is no error, explaining its reasons for concluding that and providing documentation if you requested it. You do not have to pay the disputed charge or interest on it during this period. The charge can be included on your statement if the creditor makes it clear you do not have to pay until it is confirmed.

If the creditor (credit card company) meets its responsibilities but decides that you do owe the disputed amount, it must notify you of its decision and give you a reasonable time to pay it without finance charges. If you still believe there is an error, you must again notify the creditor in writing that you continue to dispute all or part of the debt. If you do that, the creditor must not report non-payment of that charge as a delinquency unless it gives you the names of all to whom it reports, and advises them that you dispute the charge.

Disputes about products or services. If you have card charges for a product or service you are dissatisfied with, again you must act immediately. You have certain important rights if the charge exceeds $50.00 and the transaction occurred in the same state as your credit card address, or in another state but within 100 miles of your billing address. (This protection does not apply to debit card or certain check and overdraft guarantee purchases.)

What to do. If your dispute qualifies, you must first make a good faith effort to resolve it with the merchant or service provider. If you cannot resolve the matter after a reasonable effort and in a reasonable time, notify the credit card issuer. State (a) the amount, (b) the date of the charge, (c) what it was for, and (d) explain why you are dissatisfied and what you have done to try to resolve the matter. If you do that, you may withhold payment for an amount equal to the amount of credit outstanding for the unsatisfactory items at the time you first notified the card issuer or provider of your dissatisfaction, plus finance or other charges on that amount.

Errors and disputes are more likely to be resolved promptly if you follow these rules, which are also just common sense. After all, the credit card issuer wants you to continue using that card.

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