In light of the fact that the Fair Credit Billing Act (“FCBA”) is such a lengthy statute, I thought it best to break it up into two discussions. While last week’s blog focused on “billing errors”, the most in depth topic of the statute, today’s blog is dedicated to the additional regulations of the FCBA and how the Act is enforced.
In addition to fashioning an outlet for consumers to deal with billing discrepancies, the FCBA contains several other regulations. First, the FCBA requires creditors to submit billing statements at least fourteen days prior to the payment due date for open end credit accounts and to provide a reasonable grace period prior to adding finance charges. For credit cards, statements must be sent at least 21 days before your payment is due. Second, the FCBA prohibits merchants from offering a discount to consumers who pay by cash or check instead of by credit card. The Act also, requires that when you open a new account, the business must provide you with a written explanation of your right to dispute billing errors and further requests merchants to credit all payments to your account on the date they are received. The FCBA generally prohibits banks from using money in a checking or savings account to pay off the delinquent balance of a credit account held at the same bank.
Because disputes regarding your dissatisfaction of the quality of purchased goods and services are not “billing errors”, the dispute procedure doesn’t apply. There is however an avenue for you to reverse the charges if you paid for merchandise or services by credit card. In the event the purchased merchandise fails to live up to your expectations, you can take legal action against the card issuer. To initiate a lawsuit under the FCBA you must have purchased the goods or services totaling more than $50 in your home state or within 100 miles and have made a good faith effort to resolve the dispute with the seller prior to filing suit.
The Federal Trade Commission (“FTC”) is the agency designated to deal with enforcement of the FCBA and consumers may file disputes directly with the FTC. You may also file private causes of action in state or federal court to recover statutory damages of double the erroneous finance charges, actual damages and attorney fees if you are successful on your claim. If the unlawful conduct is extensive, you can also file a class action suit and seek damages up to the lesser of $500,000 or one percent of the net worth of the creditor.
If you feel your rights have been violated under the FCBA, or any other consumer statute contact SmithMarco P.C. for a free case review.