Office of Maryland Attorney General J. Joseph Curran, Jr.

November 6, 2001 Media Inquiries: Sean Caine 410-576-6357


Attorney General J. Joseph Curran, Jr. today offered advice to consumers who are worried that their bill payments might not be received on time due to delays in the mail system caused by the anthrax threat.

"With post office facilities being shut down, it's possible that payments you mail might not arrive on time, and that you could be assessed a late fee or have late payments show up on your credit report," said Curran. "I recommend that consumers ask companies to make allowances for mail delays."

Curran advises consumers:

If you receive a bill and there isn't enough time to send a payment to the company, call the company as soon as you receive it and let them know that you just received it. They should give you sufficient time to send in a payment. Write down the name of the person that you spoke with and the date and time of your conversation.

If you mail a payment in sufficient time for it to be received by the due date, but the company doesn't receive it until after the due date, call the company and tell them when you mailed your payment. Although it is your responsibility to ensure that the payment arrives by the due date, the company will probably reverse any late charge that it imposed. Again, keep notes of your communications with the company.

If you have difficulty either with a company not allowing additional time after a bill arrives late or refusing to reverse a late charge when there was a significant delay in crediting your payment, call my Consumer Protection Division at 410-528-8662 for assistance.

If you are concerned about potential problems with your payment being delayed, you can look into alternative means of payment, including automatic debits from your checking account, payment by credit or debit card over the phone, or payment over the Internet.

Also, Curran said that consumers who have asked a company to forgive a late payment may want to check their credit reports to be sure the late payment does not show up there. Maryland residents are entitled to a free credit report yearly, or whenever they are denied credit based on the information in the report. Each of the three major credit reporting agencies keeps its own records, so it is a good idea to check each of them.

To order a free credit report, call toll-free: Equifax: 1-800-685-1111; Experian: 1-888-397-3742; Trans Union: 1-800-888-4213.

If a credit report contains inaccurate information, consumers have the right to dispute the information. The credit reporting agency must investigate the information within 30 days. If it cannot verify the accuracy of the information, it must remove it. Consumers who believe that the credit reporting agency did not properly verify and/or remove inaccurate information can call the State of Maryland Division of Financial Regulation at 410-230-6100.