The Common Law

Correcting holiday credit billing errors

My holiday-month credit card bill has two mistakes on it. I'm getting charged for something I didn't buy and it's also charging me for a gift that I bought and returned a few days later. I called the credit card company and it declined to fix the mistake. What's my next step?

Dealing with incorrect holiday charges on your credit card? While aggravating, these errors can be corrected with patience and a basic knowledge of the Fair Credit Billing Act (FCBA), a federal law designed to help consumers settle disputes with credit card companies. The FCBA sets out dispute settlement procedures. Under the FCBA, there are several things you must do to challenge these types of billing errors.

Send the credit card company a letter, via certified mail to confirm receipt, stating that there has been a billing error. A sample letter for disputing billing errors can be found on the FTC website (https://www.consumer.ftc.gov/articles/0385-sample-letter-disputing-billing-errors). 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 these two errors and the actual dollar amount of each error, and the reasons why you believe the bill is incorrect. Try to include copies of all receipts or any other documents that are 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 are errors 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, the company will notify you with the reasons why it believes the bill is correct.

You are allowed to withhold payment on the disputed item during this process. But it's important to remember that you are required to make regular payments on the non-disputed items listed on your credit card bill. Your credit card company cannot threaten to damage your credit ratings while the dispute over the billing error is ongoing.

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.mehlaw.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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