Office of Consumer Affairs
U.S. Department of Commerce
Washington, D.C. 20230

Most Americans use credit and banking services regularly. To help you manage your finances, we've listed some basic protections you have under Federal law and what to do if you have problems.


  • Fair Credit Billing Act--Under this law, you may be able to withhold payment of the disputed amount of your credit card bill until the dispute is resolved. You must notify your credit card company of your problem in writing within 60 days of receiving your bill.
  • Fair Credit Reporting Act--This Act protects you by requiring credit reporting agencies to maintain correct and complete information in your credit file. You have the right to see your file on request. If you were denied credit because of information in your file, you have the right to see it at no charge. If you find incorrect or incomplete information, notify the credit reporting agency. They must investigate and correct errors.
  • Fair Debt Collection Practices Act--Certain methods of debt collection are prohibited by this law: harassment, the use of false statements, and other unfair practices. You can stop a collector from contacting you by writing a letter to the collection agency. The agency can then only contact you to say what action, if any, will be taken.
  • Equal Credit Opportunity Act--Under this law, it is illegal for creditors to discriminate against applicants on the basis of sex, race, marital status, national origin, religion, age, or because they get public assistance income.
  • Truth in Lending Act--This Act requires lenders to give you cost and terms information (including the annual percentage rate, "APR") in writing before you sign a loan agreement.
  • Credit Practices Rule--Under this rule, finance companies, retailers, and credit unions are prohibited from requiring you to give up specific rights, agree to wage assignments, or use certain household goods as collateral. It also requires that a notice of potential liability be given to consumers before they cosign for loans.

    For further information about these laws, contact your regional Federal Trade Commission (FTC) office, call the FTC Consumer Line (202) 382-4357, or look at the FTC's website at


    Contact the company. If you think your problem is one of...

  • billing,notify your credit card company immediately in writing that you are disputing the charge.
  • a lost or stolen credit card,call the card issuer immediately. Once you report the loss, you have no further responsibility for unauthorized charges and your maximum liability is $50 per card.
  • inaccurate credit file,notify credit reporting agencies. Among the largest are Equifax (800) 685-1111, Experian (800) 422-4879, and Trans Union (800) 916-8800. They must investigate and remove items that can't be verified. If it's accurate, the law allows negative information to remain in your file 7 years; 10 years for bankruptcies.
  • discrimination in granting credit, complain to the creditor. If the decision isn't changed and you believe there may be a violation, contact your state Attorney General's Office or a private attorney.

    Seek Third-party Help

    To protect your privacy, companies won't discuss your credit file or credit card accounts with third-parties. However, it may speed action on your complaint to contact your state or local consumer protection agency.

    Consumers with complaints about financial institutions should contact the following agencies when the problem isn't resolved by the institution. Complain about...

  • National banks to: Comptroller of the Currency (800) 613-6743
  • State chartered banks which are members of the Federal Reserve System to: Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System (202) 452-3693
  • Federally-insured state banks which are not members of the Federal Reserve System to: Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (800) 934-3342
  • Savings and Loan Associations/Federal Savings Banks to: Office of Thrift Supervision (800) 842-6929; (202) 906-6237 in D.C.
  • Federal Credit Unions to: National Credit Union Administration (703) 518-6300
  • Private financial institutions to: State Banking Commissioner or State Attorney General's Office
  • Other credit issuers such as retail or gasoline companies to: Federal Trade Commission Consumer Respone Line (202) 382-4357

    Credit Counseling

    If you need help in dealing with your debts, the Consumer Credit Counseling Service (CCCS) may be able to arrange a repayment plan that is acceptable to your creditors and to help you plan a budget. To locate the nearest CCCS office, call (800) 388-2227 from a touch-tone phone or look for a listing in your telephone book.

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    For more information about the Office of Consumer Affairs, contact:
    Office of Consumer Affairs
    U.S. Department of Commerce
    Room H5718
    Washington,DC 20230
    Phone: (202) 482-5001
    Fax: (202) 482-6007
    Consumer Response Line: (202) 482-8021
    Web site: