Dealing with credit agencies or collection agencies can be intimidating, and in many cases, people assume that they themselves must have done something wrong, or made some sort of error. For this reason, many are reluctant to explore or challenge the issue for fear of being put in an even more difficult position. However, the reality is that credit agencies and collection agencies do commit errors and, at times, engage in illegal activity. Just last month the FTC reported that a North Carolina debt collection agency had illegally collected over 2.1 million dollars from unknowing consumers for debts were not even owed.
If you find yourself having to deal with credit woes (e.g. being denied a credit application, lost or stolen credit cards, erroneous charges, or discrimination) or abusive collection agencies, it’s important to know that there are laws intended to protect you when dealing with credit agencies or debt collectors. A brief summary of the major laws are below:
- Equal Credit Opportunity Act (ECOA) – The ECOA was enacted in 1974 and it protects consumers from being discriminated against by creditors for reasons such as race, color, sex, religion, national origin, marital status or age.
- Fair Credit Billing Act (FCBA) – The FCBA is an amendment to the Truth In Lending Act and was also enacted in 1974. It is designed to protect consumers from unfair billing practices and provides a way to address billing errors in “open end” credit accounts like those associated with credit cards.
- Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) – This bill was enacted in 1970 to secure accurate, private, and fair representation of a consumer’s credit information and history. The FCRA “regulates the collection, dissemination, and use of consumer information, including consumer credit information,” thus ensuring that the consumer’s information is properly and fairly displayed to relevant parties such as credit lenders.
- Electric Funds Transfer Act (EFTA) – The EFTA was enacted in 1978 and protects consumers when they manage their finances through electronic means. This includes ATMs, debit cards, direct deposits, point-of-sale transactions, transfers made by phone, and pre-authorized withdrawals. The bill gives consumers 45 days to challenge discrepancies and have them addressed with minimum penalty.
- Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) – The FDCPA was enacted in 1977 to eliminate abusive collection practices by debt collectors. This law restricts the means and methods by which debt collectors can contact debtors (e.g. limits on calling places of employment, times to call debtors, forbidding deceptive methods or abusive language).
Of course, there are many relevant details buried within these laws that may affect the outcome of your situation or influence how your grievance is handled. If you have any questions or concerns about your credit reports or another consumer matter, please contact us. Having an experienced attorney represent you in such matters can help ensure that the maximum relief afforded under the consumer protection laws is obtained, and many of these laws allow for the recovery of attorney’s fees to offset the burden on consumers.
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