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For Immediate Release
June 3, 2005
Media Contact:
Kevin Enright 410-576-6357

CONSUMER ALERT: DISPUTING A CREDIT CARD CHARGE

In the latest issue of his Consumer’s Edge newsletter, Attorney General J. Joseph Curran, Jr. reminds consumers of a key advantage to using a credit card to make a purchase: the ability to ask the credit card issuer to credit back the charge if the consumer does not get what was paid for.

Some purchases are riskier than others–for example, expensive items, items purchased over the Internet, and goods or services that will be delivered later, such as special-ordered furniture. If a consumer paid for such items by cash, check or debit card, and doesn’t receive the item or the item is not what was promised, the consumer may be out of luck if the merchant refuses to refund the money. However, if the consumer paid with a credit card, he can ask the credit card issuer for a refund.

The federal Fair Credit Billing Act requires credit card issuers to correct billing errors and resolve disputes between consumers and merchants. If a consumer does not receive an item that was ordered with a credit card, or is dissatisfied with the quality of goods or services and has tried unsuccessfully to resolve the dispute with the merchant, he can dispute the charge with the credit card issuer. The consumer can withhold payment on the disputed item while the credit card issuer investigates the dispute.

Curran advises consumers to follow the dispute procedure instructions in their credit card statements. Generally, consumers must send a letter outlining the dispute to their credit card issuer within 60 days after the disputed item appeared on their billing statement. The card issuer will investigate and decide whether to remove the charge. If it does, in most cases that resolves the problem for the consumer. A merchant does have the right under the law to try to collect from the consumer directly or take the consumer to court. However, at least in that situation the consumer has his money back and it is the merchant trying to get it, rather than vice versa.

" Consumers should use credit cards carefully to avoid getting into debt," Curran said. "However, in certain circumstances paying with a credit card is a good choice because of the billing dispute rights should there be a problem with the purchase."

The Consumer’s Edge issue on credit card dispute rights can be found at www.oag.state.md.us/Consumer/edge119.htm
 

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