Unfortunately, mistaken credit card charges are all too common. From basic math errors and double-billing, to charges on items you never received, the reasons for filing a billing dispute are varied.
Luckily, there is a system in place to protect consumers from these kinds of billing errors. It’s called the Fair Credit Billing Act.
To make sure you get the fastest results and full protection from this law, follow these basic steps.
1. Check your statements.
The more often you review your billing statements, the more likely you are to spot an incorrect charge right away. Acting promptly also will help the merchant and card issuer give you the benefit of the doubt when reporting a mistaken charge.
2. Contact the merchant.
Before calling the credit card company to report an error, call the merchant responsible for the disputed charge and see if they can address and resolve the issue.
3. Keep a paper trail.
Keep track of all receipts, documentation and proof of purchase. Be sure to note all correspondence with the merchant regarding the charge in question – specifically the date, point of contact and the result of your conversation.
“It’s best to follow the procedure laid
out in the Fair Credit Billing Act.”
4. Contact the credit card company.
If you’re dissatisfied with your attempts to resolve the issue with the merchant, call your credit card company and ask for a “charge-back,” which reverses the initial credit card sales transaction.
Generally the credit card issuers give a credit and then investigate. During the investigation, the bank that issues the card looks into it by contacting the merchant, who must prove the purchase was legitimate.
Because this work is labor intensive and comes at a time cost for the bank and the merchant, sometimes either party will just absorb the cost of the charge rather than beginning an investigation, particularly on smaller purchases.
5. Write to the creditor.
Just to be safe, it’s best to follow the procedure laid out in the Fair Credit Billing Act, which requires the consumer to write a dispute letter to the creditor within 60 days of the bill with the error being mailed.
Include your name, address, account number, a description of the charge in question and copies (not originals) of all supporting documentation. Send it via certified mail to the billing inquiries department.
If the issue is still unresolved, the creditor will have to acknowledge your complaint in writing within 30 days of receiving it and respond with a resolution within 90 days.
For more information on disputing credit card charges, visit the Fair Trade Commission website.
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