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Your Rights Under Credit and Banking Laws

 

This is a list of the most relevant consumer rights under Federal Law.  This is not a complete list.  You could also have additional rights under your state laws.  For the complete list of Federal Consumer Protection Laws see the Federal Trade Commission Web Site.



Provided by the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA).


The Fair Credit Reporting Act promotes the accuracy and privacy of information in consumer credit reports.  It also controls the use of credit reports and requires consumer reporting agencies to maintain correct and complete files.


• You have the right to receive a copy of your credit report at any time for a fee or free of charge once a year or if a company takes adverse action against you based on your credit report, if you’re unemployed and plan to look for a job within 60 days, if you are on welfare or if your report is inaccurate because of fraud, including identity theft.
The copy of your report must contain all the information in your file at the time of your request.

• You have the right to know who asked for your report within the past year – two years for employment related requests.

•You have the right to dispute any information on our credit reports with the furnishers of the information for any reason at any time.  The burden of proof is on the creditors and credit bureaus.

• You have the right to correct or remove from your credit reports any data that is inaccurate, outdated or cannot be verified.

• You have a right to add a summary explanation to your credit report if your dispute is not resolved to your satisfaction. You also can ask the consumer reporting company to provide your statement to anyone who received a copy of your report in the recent past. You can expect to pay a fee for this service.

• Spouses have the right to have their credit histories listed separately, including the accounts they use jointly. Married women have the option of using their birth name or married name. In the case of couples who jointly established credit, but whose credit appears in the name of only one spouse, the other partner has the right to rely on that credit history as well.

• You have the right to sue consumer reporting agencies, users, and providers in state and federal court for violations of the Fair Credit Reporting Act.




Provided by the Equal Credit Opportunity Act (ECOA)


The Equal Credit Opportunity Act requires that individual creditors apply credit standards in a fair manner, so that all consumers are given an equal chance to obtain credit. It does not require all creditors to have the same standards, nor does it guarantee approval of loan applications.

 

• You have the right to not being discriminated on the basis of sex, marital status, race, religion, national origin, age, income from assistance programs, or if you exercise your rights under the Consumer Protection Act. The only acceptable criteria are your ability and intent to repay funds borrowed.

• Lenders cannot ask you about your sex, race, colour, religious affiliation, or national origin unless you are applying for residential real estate. Even then, you are not required to answer. The information is used only to enforce fair housing laws, not for evaluation purposes.

• You cannot be asked your marital status, unless your spouse will help secure, use, or be legally responsible for the loan. Creditors are also prohibited from asking about your plans to have children.

• If you pay or receive alimony, child support, or maintenance, you can be asked how these items affect your income. However, if you do not plan to use this income to repay the loan for which you are applying, you do not have to list it on your application.

• Lenders can ask how old you are in order to be certain you have reached legal age to enter into contracts. They can also consider your age to estimate how long you will continue to work. However, age cannot be used to deny credit to those 62 or older (in the case of credit-scoring systems) or to those applicants whose age exceeds that required for credit insurance.

• The terms of your credit cannot be changed simply because your life circumstances do. For example, the length, interest, or other features of loans cannot be changed; you cannot be forced to reapply for a loan; and you cannot be terminated because you change your name or marital status, reach a certain age, or retire.

• Lenders must notify credit applicants of their decision within 30 days after the application is completed. If credit is denied, the creditor must provide a written statement that includes the action taken, reason for denial (or how to request it), the applicant's rights, and the name and address of the enforcing federal agency. If you believe that discrimination has taken place, you have the right to file suit. If creditors are found to have discriminated unfairly, they can be held liable for actual damages and punitive damages up to $10,000.




Provided by the Fair Credit Billing Act (FCBA)


The Fair Credit Billing Act (FCBA) and Electronic Fund Transfer Act (EFTA) establish procedures for resolving mistakes on credit billing and electronic fund transfer account statements, including:

• Charges or electronic fund transfers that you or anyone you have authorized to use your account have not made.

• Charges or electronic fund transfers that are incorrectly identified or show the wrong date or amount.

• Math errors.

• Failure to post payments, credits, or electronic fund transfers properly.

• Failure to send bills to your current address – provided the creditor receives your change of address, in writing, at least 20 days before the billing period ends.

• Charges or electronic fund transfers for which you ask for an explanation or written proof of purchase along with a claimed error or request for clarification.

The FCBA generally applies only to “open end” credit accounts – credit cards and revolving charge accounts, like department store accounts. It does not apply to loans or credit sales that are paid according to a fixed schedule until the entire amount is paid back, like an automobile loan. The EFTA applies to electronic fund transfers, like those involving automatic teller machines (ATM's), point-of-sale debit transactions, and other electronic banking transactions.

For details, see Fair Credit Billing and A Consumer’s Guide to E-Payments at ftc.gov/credit.




Rights under The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA)


Applies to personal, family, and household debts. This includes money you owe for the purchase of a car, for medical care, or for charge accounts. The FDCPA prohibits debt collectors from engaging in unfair, deceptive, or abusive practices while collecting these debts. Under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act:

• You have the right to dispute the alleged debt at any time but if you do within 30 days from the first dunning letter they must stop all collection efforts until proper verification is provided to you in writing. Reporting collection accounts to the credit bureaus is considered by the courts a collection effort.

• You have the right to prevent a debt collection agency from contacting your relatives, neighbours or friends by sending them in writing by certified mail your name, address and phone number. The only acceptable reason for such calls would be to locate a debtor, after the debtor provide them with location information they cannot call anyone but the debtor.

• You have the right to prevent debt collectors from calling you at work by telling them in writing that you employer does not approve such calls.

• You have the right to prevent debt collectors from contacting you in any manner just by sending them a cease and desist communications letter, make sure that you include in the letter your name, address and phone number in order to prevent them from start calling your friends neighbours and relatives.

• You have the right to obtain from the debt collector the company name and address before discussing anything else.

• You have the right to sue a debt collector that violates the FDCPA for damages, statutory damages in the amount of 1,000 dollars per violation, court costs and attorney fees.

This practices are forbidden under the FDCPA:

• Debt collectors can contact you only between 8 a.m. and 9 p.m.

• Debt collectors cannot harass, oppress, or abuse you.

• Debt collectors cannot misrepresent the legal character of a debt or threat you with actions that they cannot legally take or they don't really intend to take.

• Debt collectors cannot lie when collecting debts, such as falsely implying that you have committed a crime or saying they are going to send the police to arrest you or take your property.

 

We strongly recommend not to talk to debt collectors on the phone, If you talk to them keep in mind that they tape record all collection calls. If you have to communicate with debt collectors, we recommend to do it only in writing and never hand sign your letters.

In one case a couple of years ago we have seen a signature migrating from a validation letter sent by the consumer to a promise to pay presented in court by the debt collector. They used a scanner and a computer to copy the original signature, print a fake promissory note and try to enforce it in court. Our client's attorney was able to prove what they did and file criminal charges against them, but only because our client sent us copy of that first validation letter for our records a few months before and the two signatures were absolutely identical.

Some unscrupulous collectors will use any dirty trick you can imagine in order to get your money, you need to have everything in writing so there is no chance for "misunderstandings."

 

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