The Common Law

Consumer law -- challenging your credit card bill

I just got this month's credit card bill, and it looks like they have charged me for an item I bought from a department store and then returned the next day. What is the easiest way for me to have my credit card company take care of the problem?

Your credit card company has made a common "billing error." Many billing errors can be resolved if you have a basic understanding of the Fair Credit Billing Act, a federal law passed by Congress in 1975 to help consumers settle disputes with their credit card companies. Under the FCBA, a consumer may challenge credit card charges for numerous reasons, including charges for goods or services that were not accepted or that were not delivered as agreed (i.e., a defective product) and charges made by unauthorized persons.

There are, however, specific things you must do to challenge the billing error. You must send the credit card company a letter, preferably via certified mail, stating that there has been a billing error, and the letter must be sent within 60 days of the first bill you received that gave you notice of the billing error. The letter should include your name and account number, a statement that you think your bill contains an error and the actual dollar amount of that error, and the reasons why you believe the bill is incorrect. Try to include photocopies of all receipts any documents that were relevant to the transaction.

The credit card company is required to acknowledge receipt of your letter within 30 days after receiving it and has a maximum of 90 days to investigate the claim. If there is an error on your bill, the credit card company should write to you explaining the corrections that have been made to your account. Alternatively, if the credit card company still believes there is no mistake, you will be notified with the reasons why it believes the bill is correct. Keep in mind that while you are allowed to withhold payment on the disputed item during this process, you are required to make regular payments on the rest of the items listed on your credit card bill. The good news is that your credit card company cannot threaten to damage your credit ratings while the dispute over the billing error is ongoing.


The material in this column is for informational purposes only. It does not constitute, nor is it a substitute for, legal advice. For advice on your specific facts and circumstances, consult a licensed attorney.

Please submit column suggestions, questions, and comments to thecommonlaw@austinchronicle.com. Submission of potential topics does not create an attorney-client relationship, and any information submitted is subject to being included in future columns.

Marrs, Ellis & Hodge LLP, www.jmehlaw.com.

The material in this column is for informational purposes only. It does not constitute, nor is it a substitute for, legal advice. For advice on your specific facts and circumstances, consult a licensed attorney. You may wish to contact the Lawyer Referral Service of Central Texas, a non-profit public service of the Austin Bar Association, at 512-472-8303 or www.austinlrs.com.

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