When a charge you don’t recognize appears on your credit card statement, do you know what to do to dispute it? If a company continues to bill you for merchandise you returned, what can you do? And, what do you do if disputing a charge might change your credit scores?
Your credit scores shouldn´t fall if you dispute a charge, because disputes don’t factor into the calculation of a credit score. Factors that can affect your credit scores include:
As long as you follow the dispute process laid out in the Fair Credit Billing Act (FCBA), disputing a charge shouldn’t affect a credit score. However, simply refusing to pay a charge or paying it late without initiating an official dispute could prompt the creditor to turn you over to collections – which appears on your credit report, and could affect your scores.
When and How to Dispute a Charge
Contact a creditor immediately when you need to dispute a charge; the law requires them to begin an investigation and take no further action to collect the debt until the investigation is complete.
According to the Federal Trade Commission, you can dispute a charge if:
The FTC also says you must initiate the dispute by notifying the creditor in writing. Send your complaint via certified mail to the address for billing inquiries, and not to the payment address. This is important to note, as they’re often different. Include your name, mailing address, account number, a description of the charge you’re disputing, why you feel it’s wrong, and copies (not originals) of any documents that verify your claim, such as sales slips. Your letter must reach the creditor within 60 days after having received the first incorrect bill. Make sure you keep a copy of the letter for your files.
Within 30 days of receiving your letter, the creditor must send you a written acknowledgement and must resolve the dispute within 90 days. While the investigation and dispute are ongoing, you don’t have to pay the disputed amount, but you’ll have to pay any portion of the bill not in dispute, like other charges.
The creditor can’t act against you — by closing or restricting your account, turning you over to a collections agency or initiating other legal action – while investigating your dispute.
Resolving a Disputed Charge
If the investigation determines that your dispute is valid, the creditor must tell you in writing how they’ll correct the situation. If they owe you a credit, they’ll also need to refund or remove finance charges, late fees or any other charges related to the disputed amount. If the creditor decides you really do owe the disputed amount, they must tell you in writing exactly how much you owe and why, and you can request copies of any documents they have that prove you owe.
Still don’t think you owe? Within 10 days of receiving the explanation, you can write to the creditor again and refuse to pay, but at that point they can decide to take the matter to collections and could report it to the credit reporting agencies. However, if they do report it to a credit bureau, they must also state that you don’t think you owe the money.
No Credit Card Required
This article is provided for general guidance and information. It is not intended as, nor should it be construed to be, legal, financial or other professional advice. Please consult with your attorney or financial advisor to discuss any legal or financial issues involved with credit decisions.
Published by permission from ConsumerInfo.com, Inc., an Experian company. © 2014 ConsumerInfo.com, Inc. All rights reserved.