Credit Card Abuse and Consumer Rights

Credit Card Issuers have been notorious for using techniques and tactics to entrap consumers into paying high interest rates on their debt. The consumer abuse at one point reached such alarming heights, that numerous laws were enacted, strengthened or simply enforced to help consumers protect themselves from these unethical practices.

All the consumer protection laws are of no use, if you don’t know what they are there for and you do not have a lawyer advocating for you.

Please take the time to understand what the consumer rights laws are, what your rights are, and what kind of action you could take if your rights have been violated. Knowledge is power, so please take 10 minutes to read a basic overview on Credit Card Abuse and the Consumer Rights laws that protect you.

Credit Card Abuse and the Truth in Lending Act

The Truth in Lending Act (TILA), which went into effect in 1968, starts protecting you before you even apply for a credit card.

Here are the key provisions:

  • Credit card issuers are required to provide standardized information in plain language so you can easily compare offers.
  • Credit card companies must provide easy-to-understand information about the terms, fees, interest rates, finance charge calculations, and other details about your re-payment contract with them.
  • Offers that promote low rates or special terms must be real offers available to qualified applicants.
  • Consumers have three days to back out of a loan agreement without losing money (this applies to other types of loans as well, besides credit cards).
  • Credit card companies and other lenders are prohibited from using high-pressure, misleading sales tactics.

Fair Credit Billing Act

The Fair Credit Billing Act (FCBA) was passed in 1975, and protects you from paying erroneous charges on your credit card bill. Under FCBA, your liability is limited to $50 for items you ordered but did not receive, merchandise or services that you didn’t accept, or duplicated or wrong charges. Other key points about FCBA include:

  • You have 60 days from the creditor’s statement date to report an error you find on your bill. In turn, the creditor must notify you if you received an inquiry within 60 days.
  • You must notify the card issuer of an error in writing, and include your name and account number, as well as specific information about the error.
  • The creditor is required to either remove the erroneous charge from your account or conduct an investigation into the charge.
  • The credit card company cannot try to collect the amount you are disputing while the matter is being investigated.
  • The creditor must inform you, in writing, of the outcome of its investigation and explain what further actions will be taken.
  • If the error is valid, the card issuer must correct it and credit you the disputed amount, as well as any financial charges related to it.

Credit Card Abuse and the Fair Credit Reporting Act

The Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) ensures the information kept on file by consumer reporting agencies is correct, fair, and kept private. Credit card companies access your credit report when you apply for a card, in addition to reporting your card activity to the credit bureaus. The FCRA was first enacted in 1970, and was amended as part of the Fair and Accurate Credit Transactions Act of 2003. FCRA provides the following protections:

  • You have the right to dispute inaccurate or incomplete information you find on your credit report. You can contact the credit reporting bureau directly, which then must investigate your claim within 30 days.
  • Disputed information will be marked as such on your credit report.
  • Wrong information will be taken off your report or corrected. The credit reporting agency must do so within 30 days.
  • If you are denied a credit card, then you can ask which credit report the card issuer referred to and obtain a free copy to double-check the information on it.
  • Information that harms your credit, in most cases, will be removed from your credit report after a specified amount of time has passed. Credit reporting agencies are not allowed to report outdated information.
  • Only specific entities can access your credit rating and history, such as creditors, insurers, and employers.

Remember, you can get one free copy of your credit report per year from each of the three credit bureaus: Experian, TransUnion, and Equifax.

Fair Debt Collection Practices Act

This credit law prohibits third-party bill collection agencies from certain practices. The following stipulations are covered by the FDCPA:

  • Bill collectors cannot call you multiple times a day. They also are not allowed to call before 8 a.m. or after 9 p.m.
  • Collection agencies are not allowed to call you at work if you tell them your workplace does not allow personal incoming calls.
  • Bill collectors must respect your privacy. They may not discuss the reason for their call with anyone other than your spouse without your permission. If they communicate by mail, the reason for the mailing must not be marked on the outside of the envelope.
  • Bill collectors may not threaten, intimidate, or harass you, and the same goes for your family or household members.
  • Collection agencies cannot give an assumed name or a false purpose for calling, such as saying they are a member of a law enforcement agency or an attorney.
  • Your name, address, and other personal information cannot be published on a “bad debt” list or made public in any way by the collection agency.

Credit Card Abuse and the The Credit Card Act

President Barack Obama signed the Credit Card Accountability, Responsibility, and Disclosure Act into effect in 2009, enacting sweeping changes to the credit card industry:

  • The credit card company must notify you 45 days in advance of changing the terms of your agreement, such as interest rates and fees. You must have the chance to cancel the card before changes go into effect.
  • Your credit card bill is due on the same date every month, and payments must be accepted until 5 p.m. on that date.
  • Your statement must include clear information about how long it will take you to pay off your balance if you only make minimum payments, and what monthly payments are required to pay off the balance within three years.
  • The card issuer cannot increase your interest rate during the first year of card activity, nor can they increase the rate of payments that are fewer than 60 days late. Raising these rates after you have made late payments to other creditors is also prohibited.
  • Promotional APRs must last at least six months.
  • Excess payments must be applied to the highest interest balance first.
  • Credit card issuers can no longer use last month’s balance to calculate this month’s interest, a process known as “double-cycle billing.”
  • The card’s grace period, the amount of time you have to pay off new purchases before incurring interest, must be at least 21 days.
  • The company can raise your APR for new purchases only.
  • Credit card companies can no longer charge over the limit fees.
  • Students under 21 years of age need a co-signer to apply for a credit card, or are required to provide evidence that they have an income and can afford monthly payments.

Referral Agent Licensing

Department of Agriculture & Consumer Services

Have Your Rights Been Violated? Get Help Now

If you are actively seeking the help of a legal professional to determine if your rights have been violated and you have suffered financially:

Call us toll free at: 1-844-216-7863 for a free education on your rights and options.