Billing Error? Know Your Rights When Fighting a Charge
If you want to dispute a charge on a bill, it will be important for you to familiarize yourself with your consumer rights. There are plenty of shady bill collectors out there looking to make a quick buck, and won’t care if you have a billing error on your account.
The Federal Trade Commission recently warned consumers about Texas-based Credit Protection Association, which allegedly engaged in some questionable behavior. The FTC said customers were contacting Credit Protection Association about their bills to let them know they had already paid for a service they were being billed for, the billed amount was incorrect, or they did not receive a service at all. Despite the calls, the FTC said the Credit Protection Association continued to bill based on faulty information. Some customers began the dispute process, but despite the disputes in some cases, the account information was erased without notice after the dispute.
Consequently, Credit Protection Association was sued by the FTC for being in violation of the Fair Credit Reporting Act. This act protects consumers when they dispute credit information. The Credit Protection Association violated the FCRA by not providing written instructions for carrying out disputes and for not informing customers about the results of their dispute. Now the Credit Protection Association is on the hook for $72,000. “When consumers dispute potentially incorrect information in their credit reports, companies must not only investigate those disputes, but also let consumers know whether the information has been corrected. Otherwise, consumers may be unaware of additional steps they may need to take under the FCRA, including filing dispute statements directly with credit reporting agencies,” said Jessica Rich, director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection. “Companies that fail to live up to these obligations can expect to hear from the FTC.”
Know your rights for a billing error
So what can you do if something like this happens to you? You can arm yourself by reading up on your rights as a consumer. This way, if you run into any problems with a company you’ll be well prepared. The Fair Credit Reporting Act outlines everything you need to know. Some of the rights you are entitled to:
- You must be notified if your file has been used to make a decision that negatively affects you. For example, if your credit report is used to decline your credit application, insurance, or employment, you have the right to know. In addition, you must be given the name, address, and phone number of the agency that gave the information about you.
- The FCRA gives you the right to know what is in your consumer reporting agency file. Your information can be obtained free of charge in certain situations, including when someone has taken negative action against you because of information contained in your credit report, or you were the victim of identity theft and you placed a fraud alert on your file.
- Consumer reporting agencies are required to correct or delete your information if it is inaccurate, incomplete, or cannot be verified.
What you can do if your rights are violated
If your rights under the Fair Credit Reporting Act are violated, you may be able to file a lawsuit in state or federal court for damages, according to legal information site NOLO (members of the military may have additional protections). You also have the option of filing a complaint directly with the FTC through their online complaint assistant. You can get detailed information about the FCRA when you visit the FTC’s special consumer section.