How to resolve three common consumer complaints

There are an astonishing 282 million credit cards in the United States. When all goes well, credit can be a great tool of convenience. Unfortunately, it is not uncommon for consumers to face credit problems. By educating yourself about money management, the three common consumer complaints can be solved quickly and easily.

Consumer Complaint #1: Credit Reporting Errors
According to Consumer Reports, consumers find 13 million inaccuracies on their credit reports each year. And, as most consumers know, a good credit history can be important when you want to apply for a loan, get a job, or obtain insurance. If you find an error on your credit report, there is a simple solution; you need to write to the credit reporting agencies disputing the item.

When the reporting agencies receive your letter disputing the item, they must investigate the item in dispute by presenting the information you submit to the creditor. Then, the creditor must review your evidence and report its findings to the agencies. If the investigation results in a change, the reporting agencies must give you a written report of its investigation and a copy of your report.

You can also dispute inaccurate items with the source of the information. You need to write to the creditors disputing the bill and the balance shown. The creditors may not then report the information to the agencies without including a notice of your dispute. In addition, once you have notified the source of the error in writing, it may not continue to report the information if it is, in fact, an error.

If you still do not receive any satisfaction to your dispute with the creditor, you can seek damages by suing them in state or federal court. Sections 616 and 617 of the federal Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) permit you to sue for "Willful Noncompliance" or "Negligent Noncompliance" of the FCRA. A private attorney would need to assist you in this matter. You can also file a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission, Consumer Response Center - FCRA, 600 Pennsylvania Ave NW, Washington, DC 20580. Although the FTC cannot resolve individual problems, it can act against a company if it sees a pattern of possible law violations.

Consumer Complaint #2: Collection Calls
The Federal Trade Commission receives more complaints about debt collectors than any other industry. If you feel that a creditor has engaged in unfair, deceptive, or abusive practices while collecting a debt, the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) provides protection. However, what actually constitutes harassment would be up to the courts to decide, if you chose to sue a creditor for harassment. Some courts might feel what a creditor/collector has done is harassment while another court would consider those collection tactics a routine collection practice. While state collection laws vary quite a bit, but the FDCPA does outline some hard and fast rules. For example, debt collectors may not:

-contact you only between 8 a.m. and 9 p.m.
-contact you at work if they know your employer disapproves.
-harass, oppress, or abuse you.

Even if a collector is not breaking any laws, receiving collection calls can be stressful. If collection calls are troubling you, you can write to the collection agency demanding they not contact you anymore. The FDCPA states, "If a consumer notifies a debt collector in writing that the consumer wishes the debt collector to cease further communication with the consumer, the debt collector shall not communicate further with the consumer with respect to such debt, except - (1) advise the consumer that the debt collector's further efforts are being terminated; (2) notify that specific remedies may be invoked; (3) that the debt collector or creditor intends to invoke a specified remedy."

Make sure, in your letter, you mention you are aware of this federal law and this provision of the law. If you have questions about this Act, call the Federal Trade Commission's Consumer Response Center at 877-382-4357. Be sure to send your letter to this collection agency by certified mail, return receipt requested so you have proof they received your "cease and desist" letter.

Please be aware that taking this action does not alleviate you of your responsibility for the debt. In some cases, sending a cease and desist letter can actually escalate the collection process.

Consumer Complaint #3: Solicitations
To help you cut down on credit card solicitations and other unwanted direct mail, the Direct Marketing Association (DMA) offers a service called DMAChoice. When you register with DMAChoice, your address will be put on a “delete” file that is provided to direct-mail marketers. According to the FTC, your registration will not stop mailings from all organizations. However, it is sure to help—the DMA sends mail for nearly 3,600 companies around the world.

National consumer credit reporting agencies (credit bureaus) may also sell or share your name and certain other information to various outside companies for marketing purposes. If you wish to direct these agencies not to sell or share this information about you for these marketing purposes, call their toll-free telephone number at 1-888-5-OPTOUT to communicate your request.

If you are tired of your dinners being interrupted by telemarketers, add your number to the National Do Not Call Registry. Telemarketers should not call your number once it is entered into the registry. If they do, you can file a complaint with the FTC. It is free to register home or mobile phone numbers. There are 172 million current Do Not Call registrations.


Kim McGrigg is the former Manager of Community and Media Relations for MMI.

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