The following consumer-protection laws help with credit-related matters:
Fair Credit Reporting Act. The Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) requires a card company or other creditor that denies you credit based on information in your credit report to:
Notify you of its decision to deny you credit.
Explain the item in the credit report that led to its decision.
Identify the credit bureau that provided the credit report.
Authorize you to obtain a free credit report from that bureau and to dispute the item.
You have 60 days to request the credit report. If you dispute an item, the credit bureau has 30 days to notify you and correct any errors. The law was amended in 1997 to add further protections from potential abuses of credit bureau information.
A common mistake on credit reports is inaccurate information, such as showing the incorrect number of late payments. Another common mistake is reporting as your debts those belonging to another person with the same name.
If a credit report dispute is not resolved to your satisfaction, visit the Web site of the U.S. Federal Trade Commission (FTC) for additional information.
Equal Credit Opportunity Act. This law prohibits a card company or other creditor from denying you credit based on your sex, race, age, religion, marital status, national origin or receipt of public assistance. You are entitled to receive an explanation if denied credit.
Fair Credit Billing Act. This law protects you from unauthorized charges made to your credit cards or other types of revolving credit. You have 60 days to notify the creditor, which must acknowledge receipt of your notification within 30 days. The creditor must resolve your dispute within two billing cycles, which are usually months.
Fair Credit Debt Collection Practices Act. This law prohibits a collection agency from harassing, intimidating or using abusive tactics to collect amounts you may owe. Collection agencies may not contact you at work if they know your employer disapproves. Moreover, collection agencies are limited to contacting you between the hours of 8 a.m. and 9 p.m.
The above information is educational and should not be interpreted as financial advice. For advice that is specific to your circumstances, you should consult a financial or tax adviser.