Kathleen G. Kane - Pennsylvania Office of Attorney General - Protecting Pennsylvanians

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Understanding Your Right to Challenge Your Credit Card Bill

File photo of writing billsHave you ever received a credit card bill and not recognized a particular charge as your own? Have you ever been billed twice for the same item or were not properly credited for a return purchase? You can dispute these billing errors with your credit card company and, if the company determines the charge was made in error, you may receive a refund or credit.

The following provides a simple check list for understanding your right to challenge credit card charges, such as charges for goods you never ordered, charges for goods that were never delivered, and charges resulting from clerical errors:

  1. First, always check every credit card statement for any charges you do not recognize.
  2. Call your credit card company to inquire about unrecognized charges. An unrecognized charge could be the result of a merchant using one name for billing and another name for advertising and selling. You can research company names at the Better Business Bureau's website (www.bbb.org). If you cannot attribute the charge to a personal purchase after speaking with the credit card company, you should file a dispute with the credit card company.
  3. Always follow up a dispute you discussed over the telephone with a written dispute letter. You can find a sample dispute letter on the Federal Trade Commission's website at www.ftc.gov. Your written dispute should clearly identity your name, address, your account number, the charge in question and the reason behind your dispute. Include copies of supporting documentation you have, such as receipts (do not send originals).
  4. Your dispute letter should be mailed to the "billing inquires" address of your credit card company and must reach the company no later than 60 days from the date of the statement containing the disputed charge. Make sure to get a receipt for the mailing of your dispute letter-- you should send a certified letter-- so you have proof the creditor received your dispute on time.
  5. The credit card company must acknowledge receipt of your letter within 30 days, and they must settle your dispute within 90 days after receiving your letter.
  6. If you are not satisfied with the resolution of your dispute, you may appeal to the credit card company within 10 days of learning their decision, or you may pursue a remedy in small claims court against the credit card company.
  7. Some credit card companies (in their terms and conditions) will include an arbitration clause, rather than a court remedy, in order to limit a consumer's rights.
  8. Consumers should be aware that no business should require a consumer to sign a waiver or give up legal rights.

Other rights related to disputed credit charges:

  • You have a right to withhold payment for any disputed charges on your credit card for the duration of the investigation of the dispute. However, if the credit card company determines the disputed charged was not an error, you may be held liable for the full amount of the charge and any finance charges that may have accrued during the investigation.
  • Under federal law, you are only liable for up to $50 of unauthorized charges (e.g., a charge by a thief).
  • You are not entitled to an extensive investigation of your disputed credit card charges. Credit card companies need only "reasonably" investigate your dispute. Your credit charge history and any documentation you provide with the dispute (signed affidavits, police reports, etc.) are likely to be the only information utilized in assessing your dispute.

If you would like additional information regarding disputed credit card charges, please call the Office of the Attorney General's Bureau of Consumer Protection at 1-800-441-2555.