Consumer Rights and Responsibilities: 3 Fair Consumer Acts

In many ways, life has become easier and more convenient for consumers in the past few decades. However, with the growth of e-commerce, online shopping, digital banking, and the increase in identity theft and scams, consumers need more protection than ever before. Congress has passed several laws to ensure consumer rights and responsibilities are established and protected.  

The federal government created three important acts to protect consumers in credit reporting, credit billing, and debt collection situations. These consumer protection laws are: 

  1. The Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) 
  1. The Fair Credit Billing Act (FCBA), and 
  1. The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) 

At the Financial Justice Initiative, we deal with these laws every day and we know they can be confusing. In this article, we’ll review each Act and explain who is covered, possible violations, important timeframes, and available remedies.  

The Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) 

If you use credit, you have a credit report. Credit reporting agencies (CRAs) gather credit information from sources like banks, credit card companies, loan companies, employers, landlords, and other creditors that are known as “information furnishers.”  

Who Is Covered? 

The FCRA covers consumers, CRAs, and information furnishers. As a consumer, you should review your credit report regularly and promptly report any errors, misstatements, or unauthorized debts directly to the CRA. 

Consumer Rights and Responsibilities 

If you report an error to a CRA, the agency and information furnisher must investigate to verify the information. The investigation must happen within a certain timeframe and the findings must be reported within three days of completing the investigation. If there is an error, they must correct it.  

Possible FCRA Violations 

The credit bureau or information furnisher can violate the FCRA by failing to: 

  • Investigate within the allowed time,  
  • Perform any investigation at all, 
  • Report their findings, 
  • Correct errors, 
  • Explain the reason if your dispute is rejected, 
  • Advise you about your rights upon a rejection, or  
  • Otherwise follow the FCRA.  

Remedies Allowed by the FCRA 

If you can prove a violation of the FCRA, you may be entitled to: 

  • Actual damages including emotional distress, damage to your credit, and any related out-of-pocket expenses, 
  • Statutory damages ranging from $100 to $1,000 if you can prove the violation was willful, 
  • Punitive damages to punish the violator under certain circumstances, and 
  • Payment of your attorney’s fees and costs. 

Deadline to File an FCRA Lawsuit 

The FCRA statute of limitations (the window of opportunity for someone to file a lawsuit under the statute) is two years from the date of the violation. However, the rules are complicated and it’s best to consult with an experienced FCRA lawyer before your time runs out.  

The Fair Credit Billing Act (FCBA) 

If you find an error or unauthorized charge in your credit card statement or another open-ended line of credit, you must report the problem to the creditor to be protected under the FCBA.  

Who is Covered? 

Consumers who have open-ended credit lines such as credit cards, department store cards, or home equity lines of credit and the creditors who offer these types of credit arrangements.  

Consumer Rights and Responsibilities 

If you discover a charge you don’t recognize, notify your creditor within 60 days of the date of the statement that showed the charge. The creditor must then acknowledge your dispute in writing and investigate the circumstances.  

If there is an error or an unauthorized transaction, the creditor must correct the error or clear the transfer. If the creditor decides there is no error, it must let you know in writing and explain the basis for the decision.  

Possible FCBA Violations 

A creditor can violate the FCBA if it doesn’t:  

  • Acknowledge your dispute,  
  • Perform a reasonable investigation,  
  • Notify you about the outcome, or 
  • Correct or remove an unauthorized transaction.  

Also, if the creditor takes some action to harm your credit during the investigation, it violates the FCBA.  

Remedies Allowed by the FCBA 

If you can prove an FCBA violation, you are eligible to receive actual damages, statutory damages up to $5,000, and possibly punitive damages. The violator will also be responsible for your attorney’s fees and costs.  

Deadline to File an FCBA Lawsuit 

Legal action under the FCBA must be filed within one year but calculating the start date is complicated. An FCBA attorney at the Financial Justice Initiative can determine your specific deadline.  

The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) 

The FDCPA prohibits debt collectors from using harassment, deception, or abusive methods when trying to collect a debt from a consumer.  

Who is Covered? 

This Act does not apply to original creditors, such as your doctor or furniture dealer. Only third-party debt collectors, including collection agencies or companies that buy debt, are covered by the FDCPA. All consumers who deal with debt collectors are protected. Also, business debts are not covered. Only consumer debt falls under the FDCPA. 

Consumer Rights and Responsibilities 

As a consumer, you do not have to tolerate debt collection actions such as:  

  • Late-night calls or excessive calling,  
  • Foul language,  
  • Threats that you will be arrested, 
  • Demands for an amount you don’t owe, 
  • The collection agent lying about their identity, and 
  • Other prohibited actions.  

Possible FDCPA Violations 

In addition to avoiding the collection tactics mentioned above, debt collectors must also supply specific, detailed disclosures when collecting a debt. If a debt collector does not provide the necessary information or acts in any way prohibited by the FDCPA, it’s a violation.  

Often, debt collection agencies pursue mass collection actions using form documents with errors or misstatements to trick debtors into paying more than they owe. The Financial Justice Initiative is a national team of top consumer class action lawyers that has successfully resolved several FDCPA class-action cases and protected thousands of consumers.  

Remedies Allowed by the FDCPA 

You are entitled to actual damages, statutory damages up to $1,000, and payment of your attorney’s fees and costs if you can prove that a debt collector violated the FDCPA. 

Deadline to File an FDCPA Lawsuit 

FDCPA complaints must be filed within one year of the date of the offense. Deciding when an offense occurs can be complicated. An FJI lawyer will listen to your story and help calculate when you must file your complaint. 

Your Consumer Rights and Responsibilities are Important and Complicated 

This article is just a brief explanation of three of the major consumer protection laws. Your situation is unique, and the details of your story are extremely important to decide which laws and what remedies may apply. Sometimes more than one statute covers a situation and the only way to protect your rights is to work with a skilled consumer protection lawyer. 

Be warned, most attorneys don’t understand the intricacies of these laws and don’t have the legal knowledge and experience to properly handle a case under these statutes. At the Financial Justice Initiative, consumer protection is all we do. We are passionate about protecting consumers from companies that ignore consumer rights and responsibilities.  

To schedule a free, no-obligation case consultation with one of our dedicated attorneys, call (206) 775-7310 or fill out this simple form now.