Credit Card Disputes


BILLING ERRORS

State and federal laws give you the right to dispute credit card billing errors and have them corrected. This page explains how to handle billing disputes with your credit card company.

What are billing errors?

Billing errors include:

  • A purchase you did not make or did not authorize.
  • Charges for goods or services that you did not receive or that you refused to accept.
  • Payments you made that were not credited to your account.
  • Bills that contain mathematical errors.

You can also dispute charges you don't remember making and request proof that the charge was made.

How do I correct errors?

You have 60 days from the date of the statement with the billing error, to write to your credit card company.

Send your letter to the address listed on your credit card statement for billing errors and inquiries. Include your name, account number, and the date and amount of the error. Explain in your letter why the billing is wrong. Request proof of purchase if that is the issue. 

Send your letter certified mail return receipt requested for proof of delivery.

Do I have to pay the disputed amount?

No. You can withhold payment of the amount in dispute and the finance charge on that amount until the card company investigates the dispute. You can also withhold the interest payment on the disputed amount.

You must pay the amounts that are not in dispute.

What does the credit card company have to do?

They must acknowledge receipt of your letter within 30 days. Within 90 days, or two billing cycles, they must investigate your dispute. They must correct their mistake or explain to you in writing why the bill is correct. If you request proof of a purchase, they must provide it to you.

If the credit card company doesn't follow these procedures, they cannot collect the amount you disputed or charge interest on that amount. The credit card company cannot close your account just because you file a dispute.

What if they don’t correct the error?

If your claim is denied, or it is a dispute over merchandise or services that are defective or not delivered, you may be able to file a claim under Claims and Defenses.

Can the credit card company take action against me if I refuse to pay?

They can begin normal collection activities, such as referring the disputed amount to a collection agency, or suing you in court. 

If you are contacted by a collection agency, send them a letter explaining why you feel you do not owe the money. A collection agency must stop contacting you if you send them a letter telling them not to contact you again. Send all letters by certified mail, return receipt requested, and keep a copy of the letter for your records.

If they file suit against you, you should seek legal assistance. If you file an answer to the lawsuit, you can appear in court and explain why you feel the billing is wrong.

The credit card company can only report you to a credit-reporting agency if:

  • You actually owe the amount you disputed, or
  • They sue you in court and win.

CLAIMS AND DEFENSES

Sometimes you have a dispute over goods or services that were defective or not delivered. If you paid for these on your credit card and the merchant will not resolve the problem, you can file a dispute with the credit card company using a procedure called, Claims and Defenses. 

What are claims and defenses?

Claims and defenses are any valid reasons you have for not paying a certain credit card charge. They include billing errors, unauthorized charges, and claims that goods or services were misrepresented, defective, or not delivered.

The credit card company can be held responsible under Federal law (15 USC 1666i).

How do I assert claims and defenses?

You assert your claims and defenses by writing to the credit card company showing that you tried to resolve the problem with the store directly but they refused to remedy the problem. Tell them you are withholding payment until the problem is resolved.

Are there any limitations on raising claims and defenses?

Yes. In order to assert claims and defenses, the purchase must have been made in the same state you live in, or within 100 miles of your home. Also, the amount of the disputed charge must be more than $50.

If the credit card company and the business honoring the card are connected, for example, a department store honoring its own credit card, this limitation does not apply. This also applies to advertisements that were included in your credit card statement.

If I’ve already paid the disputed amount on my credit card, can I still raise my claims and defenses?

No. Once you pay the disputed amount, you cannot assert claims and defenses. If you paid only part of the disputed amount, you can still put a claim in for the remaining balance owed.

Can I use claims and defenses for purchases made on the telephone?

Yes. If you fall victim to a fraudulent telemarketer, who charges your credit card for worthless vacations, investments, or other goods or services, you can use the claims and defenses procedure to dispute these phony charges.

Can I assert claims and defenses if I place an order by phone with a company in another state?

If the company contacted you by phone, the law states that the purchase took place where you received the call.

If you feel the charge is fraudulent, you can refuse to pay and can assert your claims and defenses.

If you contacted the out-of-state company by phone, the purchase is usually considered to have taken place at their location. In that case, you could not assert your claims and defenses.

Is there a time limit for asserting claims and defenses?

If you sue for the amount in dispute, you must do so within one year of the purchase. However, if the credit card issuer or the retailer sues you, you can raise your claims and defenses at any time.

Civil Codes 1747.40, 1747.50, 1747.60, 1747.65
County of Los Angeles Department of Consumer and Business Affairs. Last change: May 5, 2008