A dispute over the quality of a good or service is not a billing error, so the following procedure would not apply, however other legal rights may be more applicable.
In order to take advantage of this law, a phone call to a customer service representative, while helpful, is not enough, as it does not satisfy the statute. No verbal assurance by the creditor will require their compliance with the dispute procedures. In order to make a proper dispute under the statute your dispute must:
- Be in writing
- Include your name, address, account number and description of dispute
- Be addressed to the “billing disputes”, “billing errors”, or “billing inquiries” address for the creditor.
- Should be (but not required) by certified mail, return receipt requested. (for your records)
- Include copies (not originals) of documents that support your position.
Creditors may not threaten to report you as delinquent or report your account negatively based upon your withholding payment on the disputed charge. The creditor may report to the credit bureaus that your account is in dispute.
Importantly, a consumer’s exercise of its right to dispute a bill cannot be the basis of another potential lender’s denial of credit. To deny credit based on such a dispute may be a violation of the Equal Credit Opportunity Act.
Once a dispute is properly made, a creditor who fails to follow the statutory procedure may not collect the amount in dispute, or any related finance charges up to $50, even if the bill ends up being correct. The creditor must acknowledge your dispute in writing within 30 days of receipt, and it must resolve the dispute within two billing cycles (not more than 90 days after receipt of your letter).
If the bill is incorrect, then the creditor must explain to you in writing, the corrections that will be made and credit your account the charge in dispute and all related fees and finance charges. If the bill is correct you must be told promptly and in writing what is owed and why. It may be determined that you owe a portion of the amount in dispute and if so you must also be informed in writing.
You may attempt to dispute it further and request copies of all relevant documents, however this written dispute must be submitted with 10 days of your receipt of the results. If a bill is determined to be correct collection efforts by the creditor may commence.
The bottom line is that consumers should not remain silent in the face of a disputed bill. Don’t be afraid to stand up for your rights, and instead follow the procedures of the FCBA, and make the creditor do the same.
This article is provided for informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice. If you need legal advice, contact a lawyer as soon as possible.