It is important for consumers to be aware that credit repair laws exist and they should be understood before disputing any questionable items on credit reports. Many consumers feel helpless when it comes to their credit because they feel as though there are more laws against them than that protect them. The great news is that there are many different laws in place to help protect you, the consumer, from many different issues or acts depending on your situation. You should know and understand these laws to ensure that you are being treated fairly.
There are 3 consumer protection statutes which basically define your civil rights as a consumer. The most popular is the Federal Credit Reporting Act (FCRA). The other 2 are the Fair Credit Billing Act (FCBA) and the Fair Debt Collections Practices Act (FDCPA). The utilization of the principles of all 3 of these acts is the ideal way to change your poor credit score into an attractive personal credit report that will earn you many benefits over your lifetime.
THE FAIR CREDIT REPORTING ACT
The Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) regulates how credit bureaus treat consumers. In the early 1970’s, before this law, creditors were free to do whatever they wanted, and often made their judgments about consumers based on their race, religion or even color. The worst part was that many of these reports were confidential, so a consumer would never know why they were charged a higher interest rate and were therefore unable to defend themselves against such an injustice.
- ensures that consumers can acquire their consumer credit reports at a reasonable price
- regulates who can acquire a consumer’s credit report, and
- enforces a maximum time limit in which a certain item can be listed on a credit report. (Most items can only be listed for a maximum of 7 years, while a bankruptcy can be listed for 10 years.)
It is important to note that credit reports are not official government documents, and credit bureaus are not official government agencies. Lastly, credit bureaus are required to handle all consumer complaints in a timely manner, usually within 30 days. After their investigation, they must notify the customer of the new status of this item, whether it was confirmed, modified or deleted.
FAIR DEBT COLLECTION PRACTICES
The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) was enacted to protect ordinary people from creditors and define the scope of what creditors are allowed to do and threaten in order to try and collect their debt. Without this law, debt collectors could come after you day and night, even pretending to be a Governmental Agency. In short, the FDCPA provides standards for acceptable third-party collections behavior. For example, collection agencies can’t contact you after 9 P.M. or before 8 A.M., and they can’t harass you at your job. This act also specifies that debt collectors must always include several legal disclaimers in their dealings with debtors, such as “This correspondence is an attempt to collect a debt.” Additionally, if they don’t state their purpose right away when communicating with a debtor, whether that communication is written or verbal, then they are violating that consumer’s Federal Civil Rights. They are not allowed to use violence, nor are the allowed to impersonate a police officer or any other type of deception. If you have a lawyer, collection agencies must communicate directly with them and not you. They must not violate your privacy or alert others in any way that they are trying to collect a debt from you. Lastly, consumers have the right to receive proof or validation of the debt that is trying to be collected.
THE FAIR CREDIT BILLING ACT
The Fair Credit Billing Act (FCBA) requires creditors to bill accurately and completely. The FTC summarizes the statute’s prohibitions as follows: “unauthorized charges; charges that list the wrong date or amount; charges for goods and services you didn’t accept or weren’t delivered as agreed; math errors; failure to post payments and other credits, such as returns; 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; and charges for which you ask for an explanation or written proof of purchase along with a claimed error or request for clarification.”
While original creditors aren’t bound by the FDCPA they are bound by the FCBA. This holds original creditors responsible for the actions and record keeping of their third party collection companies.