Your Rights under Federal and State Law
Consumer Protection Law
Consumer protection laws are federal, state and local laws that were enacted to protect fair competition and prevent companies that engage in fraud or use unfair practices from gaining an advantage in the marketplace or take advantage of consumers without the means to protect themselves. Many individual states have consumer protection laws that are enforceable on top of the federal laws that are in place. Federal laws in place to protect consumers include the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, Fair Credit Reporting Act, Truth in Lending Act and the Fair Credit Billing Act.
Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA)
The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act is a consumer protection law passed by the U.S. Congress and signed into law by President Jimmy Carter in 1977. It is designed to protect consumers from abusive, unfair and deceptive practices used by third-party debt collectors. It allows a consumer to dispute any claims made by a debt collector and request validation of the debt collector's claims. The law also outlines what actions are acceptable for debt collectors to use in order to seek payment from a consumer. The law only applies to personal financial deals. Any debt incurred to run a business is not subject to the law. It has been changed and updated over the years.
If you have been harassed or threatened by a debt collector, you should talk to an attorney about your options. A skilled attorney will understand how to use the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act to force debt collectors to treat you fairly.
Fair Credit Billing Act
The Fair Credit Billing Act (FCBA) was passed to protect consumers from unfair billing practices, such as being billed for merchandise that was never received or failure to post credits in a timely manner. It also sets a consumer's responsibility for unauthorized charges or ways to seek clarification of items on a bill.
Anytime you dispute a charge, you are using the provisions of the Fair Credit Billing Act. It is designed to help consumers when erroneous charges or fees appear in their credit card statement.
In order to use the provisions of this law, you must send a letter to the creditor within 60 days of the first incorrect bill mailing. The creditor must acknowledge your dispute in writing within 30 days of receiving it, and must have settled the matter within two billing cycles of receiving the dispute letter.
State Consumer Protection Laws
Many states have their own consumer protection laws. Consumers in Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Hawaii, Idaho, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma and Oregon are protected by additional fair debt collection laws.
It doesn't mean you aren't protected in other states, just that you must use the federal laws to protect your rights.
No matter where you live, if you are being harassed by a creditor, you need an attorney who knows about the fair debt collection laws.