Dealing with Debt: Know Your Consumer Rights
Because you are evaluated for loans, leases, and sometimes even employment based on your personal credit, it can be one of the most important things to your economic survival. The Federal Trade Commission (www.ftc.gov) helps protect your rights through laws that require businesses and credit agencies to provide you with information and equal opportunities.
Right to Your Credit Reports ... For Free
As a consumer, you have a right to have a copy of your credit report. Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion—the three credit reporting agencies—must provide a copy of your credit report at no charge once every 12 months. If a company denies you credit, insurance, employment, you are also entitled to a free report if you request one within 60 days. You can also obtain one if you are unemployed and will be seeking employment within 60 days. You may also obtain a free copy if your report is inaccurate. Outside of these conditions, the credit reporting companies can only charge up to $9.95 to send you a copy of your credit report.
Right to File Disputes with Credit Reporting Agencies
You also have the right to file disputes with credit reporting companies (and to file an explanation to be added to your credit report if the disputes are not satisfactorily resolved) and to find out who has requested your credit report within the past year. These rights are protected by the federal Fair Credit Reporting Act.
The Equal Credit Opportunity Act
The Equal Credit Opportunity Act protects consumers from credit discrimination “on the basis of sex, race, marital status, religion, national origin, age, or receipt of public assistance.” This law protects individuals as well as businesses that are applying for credit. If you are on public assistance, you have the right to have that income be treated like any other income. Finally, you have the right to know why if anyone denies you credit.
The Fair Credit Billing Act and the Electronig Fund Transfer Act
The Fair Credit Billing Act and the Electronic Fund Transfer Act provide channels for resolving errors on billing statements and electronic fund transfer account statements. There are procedures for disputing charges you haven’t made; errors on fund transfers and payments; and failure of the company to post payments or bill to the correct address.
The Federal Trade Commission and the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act
Debt collection also falls under the FTC. The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act provides consumer protection from unfair, deceptive, or abusive collection tactics. They may only contact you between 8:00 a.m. and 9:00 p.m., and not at work if your employer doesn’t allow it. They may not harass you, or lie when collecting debts. If you request in writing they stop contacting you, they must do so.
For More Information
To learn more about your consumer rights, go to www.ftc.gov.