Merchandise You Never Received?
Building a Better Credit
Car Ads: Reading Between the Lines
Choosing and Using Credit
Cosigning a Loan
Credit, ATM and Debit Cards: What To Do If They're Lost or
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Credit and Debit Card
Credit and Your
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The Credit Practices Rule
Credit Repair: Self-Help
May Be Best
Easy Credit? Not So Fast. The Truth About Advance Fee-Loan
Equal Credit Opportunity
Fair Credit Billing
Getting Credit: What You Need to Know About Your Credit
Getting Credit When
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Gold and Platinum Cards
How to Dispute
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How to File a Consumer Complaint about a Bank
Keys to Vehicle Leasing
Negative Credit Can
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Payday Loans = Costly Cash
Ready, Set... Credit
Understanding Vehicle Financing
for Merchandise You Never Received?
Here's What To Do.
You found the
perfect set of linens in a mail order catalog. You
call to place your order and charge it to your credit
card. You're told that your linens should arrive in
two weeks. Two weeks go by, then three and four, and
still no linens. What you do get is your credit card
bill with a charge from the catalog company.
So, just what do you do when you get
a credit card bill but no merchandise? Get frustrated,
to be sure.
But the error can be corrected. The
Fair Credit Billing Act (FCBA) and the Mail or Telephone
Order Merchandise Rule offer protections and procedures
for consumers so they don't have to pay for merchandise
they ordered but never received.
In addition, many credit card issuers
have policies against merchants charging a credit card
account before shipment. If you think a merchant charged
your account prematurely, report it to the credit card
issuer. Otherwise, the credit card issuer has no way
to know that the merchant is not complying with its
Credit Billing Act
To dispute a billing error on your credit card, you
- Write to the credit card issuer at the address for
"billing inquiries," not
the address for sending your payments (the address
for billing inquiries is often found on the back of
your most recent monthly statement); include your
name, address, account number and a description of
the billing error. A sample letter is included on
- Send your letter so that it reaches the credit card
issuer within 60 days after the first bill containing
the error was mailed to you.
- Send your letter by certified mail, return receipt
requested, so you have proof of what the credit card
issuer received. Include copies (not originals) of
sales slips or other documents that support your position.
Keep a copy of your dispute letter.
- It is important to send the letter to the correct
company. In the case of Visa and MasterCard, you should
send it to the bank that issued the card.
The credit card issuer must acknowledge
your complaint in writing within 30 days after receiving
it, unless the problem has already been resolved. And
the credit card issuer must resolve the dispute within
two billing cycles (but not more than 90 days) after
receiving your letter.
while your bill is in dispute?
You may withhold payment on the disputed amount (and
related charges), during the investigation, but you
must pay any part of the bill not in question, including
any finance charges on the undisputed amount.
The credit card issuer may not take
any legal or other action to collect the disputed amount
and the related charges (including finance charges)
during the investigation. While your account cannot
be closed or restricted, the disputed amount may be
applied against your credit limit.
You placed an
order with a catalog company and they charged your
credit card immediately. The catalog company contacts
you two weeks later and says the shipment will be
delayed 60 days. You agree to the delay. The 60 days
have passed and you don't have the merchandise. Can
you still dispute the charge?
Maybe. In delayed shipment situations,
credit card issuers often are more generous when they
calculate the time for allowing disputes. To take advantage
of this flexibility, include the following information
in your dispute letter.
- Tell the credit card issuer if the premature
charge was unexpected. Some credit card issuers
make an exception to the general industry rule against
merchants charging before shipping if the merchant
tells you about its practice at the time of sale.
If you're certain the merchant said nothing or wasn't
clear about its charge practice, the credit card issuer
is more likely to allow the dispute.
- Tell the credit card issuer when delivery
was expected. In no delivery situations,
some credit card issuers will use the expected
date of delivery rather than the charge date
as the start time for you to dispute charges. If you
dispute the charge within a reasonable time after
the expected delivery date passes, chances are good
that the credit card issuer will honor the dispute.
When you order or when a merchant notifies you of
delayed shipment, it's important to keep a record
of the promised shipment or delivery date. Include
a copy of any documentation of the shipment or delivery
date when disputing the charge with your credit card
What if you used a debit card
to pay for the merchandise? The consumer protections
for a debit card fall under the Electronic Fund Transfer
Act and may differ from protections for a credit card
under the FCBA. So you may not be able to dispute a
debit and get a refund for nondelivery or late delivery.
Still, some debit card issuers voluntarily offer protections
and solutions to problems like the failure to receive
merchandise bought with a debit card. Contact your debit
card issuer for more information about particular policies
What if you financed your
purchase through the merchant? If you financed
your purchase through the merchant, you also may have
protections under state and federal law. Check your
credit contract for the following language: Notice:
Any holder of this consumer credit contract is subject
to all claims and defenses which the debtor could assert
against the seller of goods or services obtained with
the proceeds hereof. It means that you may be able
to claim that the seller failed to deliver the goods
as stated in your credit contract.
Sample Dispute Letter
Your Address, City, State, Zip Code
Your Account Number
Name of Credit
Address, City, State, Zip Code
Dear Sir or Madam:
I am writing to dispute a billing error in the
amount of $______on my account. The amount is
inaccurate because the merchandise I ordered was
not delivered. I ordered the merchandise on (date)
. The merchant promised to deliver the merchandise
to me on (date) , and the merchandise was not
delivered. (In addition, when I ordered the merchandise,
the merchant did not tell me that it would charge
I am requesting that the error
be corrected, that any finance and other charges
related to the disputed amount be credited to
my account, and that I receive an accurate statement.
Enclosed are copies of (use
this sentence to describe any enclosed information,
such as sales slips, payment records, documentation
of shipment or delivery dates) supporting my position
and experience. Please correct the billing error
Enclosures: (List what you are
or Telephone Order Merchandise Rule
This rule covers merchandise you order by mail, telephone,
computer and fax. It requires merchants to have a reasonable
basis for claiming they can ship an order within a certain
- By law, a merchant should ship your order within
the time stated in its ads or over the phone. If the
merchant doesn't promise a time, you can expect it
to ship your order within 30 days.
- The shipment "clock" begins when the merchant
receives a "properly completed order." That
includes your name, address and payment (check, money
order or authorization to charge an existing credit
account - whether the account is debited at that time
- If the merchant doesn't promise a shipping time
and you are applying for credit to pay for your purchase,
the merchant has an additional 20 days (50 days total)
to establish the account and ship the merchandise.
If the merchant is unable to ship within the promised
time, it must notify you by mail, telephone, or email,
give a revised shipping date and give you the chance
to cancel for a full refund or accept the new shipping
date. The merchant also must give you some way to exercise
the cancellation option for free, for example, by supplying
a prepaid reply card or staffing a toll-free telephone
- If you ignore the option notice, and the delay is
30 days or less, it's assumed that you accept the
delay and are willing to wait for the merchandise.
- If you do not respond - and the delay is more than
30 days - the order must be canceled by the 30th day
of the delay period and a full refund issued promptly.
If the merchant can't meet the revised
shipping date, it must notify you again by mail, email
or telephone and give you a new shipping date or cancel
your order and give you a refund.
- The order will be canceled and a refund issued promptly
unless you indicate by the revised shipping date that
you are willing to wait.
- If you do not respond at all to the second notice,
it's assumed that you are not willing to wait, and
a full refund must be issued promptly.
If you authorized a charge to your credit card account,
the merchant must credit the account within one billing
cycle - not give credit toward another purchase. If
you pay by cash, check or money order, the merchant
must mail you a refund within seven working days.
Tips for Shopping by Phone, Mail
- Consider your experience with the company
or its general reputation before you order.
If you've never heard of the seller, check on its
physical location and reputation with the local Better
Business Bureau or the state Attorney General's office.
- Ask about the company's refund and return
policies, the product's availability and
the total cost of your order before you place your
- Get a shipment date.
- Keep records of your order, such
as the ad or catalog from which you ordered; the company's
name, address and phone number; any shipment representation
the company made to you and when it made it; the date
of your order; a copy of the order form you sent to
the company or, if you're ordering by phone, a list
of the items and their stock codes and the order confirmation
code; your canceled check or the charge or debit statement
showing the charge for your order; and any communications
to or from the company.
- Track your purchases. When you
order online, keep printouts of the web pages with
the details of the transaction, including the merchant's
return policies, in case you're not satisfied.
for Resolving Problems
If you have other problems with your
purchase, try to resolve your dispute with the company.
If that doesn't work, the following resources may be
- State and local consumer protection offices. Contact
the offices in your home state and where the company
- The Direct Marketing Association (DMA). Write:
Mail Order Action Line
19th Street, N.W., Suite 1100
- Postal Inspectors. Call your local post office and
ask for the Inspector-in-Charge.