PIRATES OF THE CREDIT SEA – Part 2: What are my rights?
What are my rights in the situation that I summarized in my previous article: “PIRATES OF THE CREDIT SEA: My Treasure Is Taken!”? Well, the answer is very simple. I have a contractual right to get my treasure back. I also have a right to fair, honest, and ethical treatment under my credit card contract with Citibank. I have fulfilled the obligations of my agreement with Citibank to the best of my knowledge and ability. They should fulfill theirs. Already, however, it does not look like it is going to be a walk in the part to get my treasure back.
< — Go to Part #1: My Treasure Is Taken!
Go to Part #3: I want my treasure back!! (Please) –>
Why do I believe I have a right to get my treasure back? This is not a difficult intellectual or legal exercise. If you enter into a contract, and your fulfill your side of the agreement while the other party does not, then you should always have a right to restitution until the statue of limitations expires. My rights to my treasure have not expired, just because I missed a 60-day window. The statute of limitations related to meeting contractual commitments is never just 60 days.
When you deal with a credit card company, however, things just seem not to be that easy after 60 days. Unless, you watch every billing statement like a hawk and contest any problems in writing within 60 days, which we did not do, your road to recovery could be more difficult, if the credit card company wants to make it harder.
What is this 60-day window? I have missed the very short window on one of the very few consumer protections with any teeth that are available to credit card customers under law. I have missed the “60-day-complain-about-your-bill-in-writing” window of the Fair Credit Billing Act (FCBA) of 1974 which was enacted as an amendment to the Truth in Lending Act (15 U.S.C. § 1601 et seq.).
It looks like my road ahead will be harder because I missed this 60-day window. What can you do to ensure that you do not get into my situation? How can you get your financial institution to fix things promptly and responsively?
To keep things simple, remember these two things:
1) CHECK EVERY BANK STATEMENT, CREDIT CARD STATEMENT, CREDIT UNION STATEMENT, AND EVERY OTHER FINANCIAL STATEMENT THAT YOU GET IN HARDCOPY OR ELECTRONICALLY FOR ACCURACY IMMEDIATELY AFTER YOU GET IT. LOOK AT EVERYTHING ON THE BILLING STATEMENT — NOT JUST THE FIRST PAGE THAT TELLS YOU WHAT THE FINANCIAL INSTITUTION ALLEGES THAT YOU OWE. IF ANYTHING SEEMS NOT TO BE CORRECT, IT IS RED-ALERT TIME. THE CLOCK IS TICKING.
With my personal situation, I now understand more clearly that any billing statement is only the other party’s perhaps erroneous interpretation of your financial obligations, and this billing statement “interpretation” of your contract is only good for easy correction for sixty days. After 60 days, your billing statement is likely to becomes a fossil in your relationship with your financial institution. If your statement is wrong, you may find, as I have, that your financial institution will erect operational and communications stone walls to make it very difficult to bring any over-60-day fossilized billing statement back to life and to make it subject to revision. I used to have more trust in company-customer goodwill, but that has vanished. Silly me.
2) REPORT ANY PROBLEMS IN WRITING AS SOON AS POSSIBLE, BUT DEFINITELY WITHIN 60 DAYS. YOU MUST INCLUDE ALL REQUIRED INFORMATION UNDER THE FAIR CREDIT BILLING ACT, AND YOU MUST MAIL IT TO THE APPROPRIATE COMPANY ADDRESS. YOU MUST WRITE TO PROTECT YOUR LEGAL RIGHTS UNDER THE FCBA.
You can use the telephone to try to fix things, but you will lose your rights under the FCBA, if your credit card company does not keep its verbal commitments about what they say they will do, and you did not write a letter. See the links below for the requirements for such letters. If the amount at issue is substantial to you, you may wish to mail your letter through the post office with return receipt requested or send it through some other shipper that will provide proof of delivery.
To protect your rights under the FCBA, you should investigate what these rights are and what you must do to preserve your rights. The Skilled Investor will not attempt to summarize the FCBA or interpret it for you. There many useful web resources on the FCBA. Try these links to start and use your favorite search engine if you need more information:
Federal Trade Commission — Facts for Consumers — Fair Credit Billing Act
Federal Reserve Board — Consumer Handbook to Credit Protection Laws
Full text of The Fair Credit Billing Act (FCBA) of 1974, as amended (in .pdf format)
The FCBA was enacted to give consumers limited rights in dealing with banks, credit card companies, and other financial institutions that deal with the public. I hate to imagine what things were like prior to the enactment of the FCBA in 1974. The FCBA has some legal teeth, and the credit card companies take it seriously. FCBA violations cost financial companies money, and they have structured their operations to hop to it, when they get an FCBA compliant letter.
However, a 60-day window is pretty darn short to preserve your corrective rights and to compel credit card companies to take action. Furthermore, once you miss the window, it seems that credit card companies feel that they can ignore you. In practice, they can ignore you, because they face no penalties that are easy for a consumer to trigger, when a dispute falls out from under the FCBA. At best, the credit card industry is “lightly” regulated, and many credit card companies have found that they can take advantage of customers without any significant financial consequences that would cause them to change their rapacious behaviors.
That is the situation that I am in now. However, I know that I am not S.O.L. I know that I still have contractual rights. However, it looks like it will be harder, more time consuming, and perhaps more expensive to enforce my rights. Nevertheless, this is still my treasure — not Citibank’s, and I want my treasure back!
In conclusion, you might also find the information at these other websites to be useful to you:
U.S. Department of the Treasury — Comptroller of the Currency — Administrator of National Banks — Consumer Complaints and Assistance
The Consumer Federation of America (CFA)
Consumers Union (CU) — publisher of Consumer Reports magazine
Don’t Get Taken! Protect Yourself Legally From Common Abuses and Rip-Offs
Next: PIRATES OF THE CREDIT SEA: I want my treasure back!! (Please)
Tags: ethical treatment
Personal Financial Planning
- Mutual Fund and ETF Screening Requirements (
On-line screening of mutual funds and ETFs: minimum requirements
In this article, The Skilled Investor discusses minimum requirements for on-line mutual fund and ETF screening tools. This article summarizes our seven scientifically based fund selection criteria and reports on our survey of the capabilities of free on-line website tools to do screens using these criteria.
Automated fund [...])
- Fidelity Spartan 500 Index mutual fund (FSMKX) achieves the Best +10 Fund Authority Score (
The Standard & Poors 500 stock index is the most common equity index fund benchmark in the U.S. The S and P 500 tracks about 75% of publicly traded U.S. equity market asset value. The dominant issue in choosing among passively managed index mutual funds and ETF funds benchmarked against the S & P 500 [...])
- What Is Investment Portfolio Diversification? (From the perspective of holding a well-diversified investment portfolio according to scientific investment principles, the objective of diversification is to minimize or eliminate ‘unsystematic risk’ or those risks that are not related to the price volatility of the overall securities markets.
When people speak of investment diversification, they may mean different things. Therefore, clear definitions are [...])
- How Investment Sales Loads and One Time Investment Fees Work (Understanding one-time investment fees, such as sales loads
Sales load charges and commissions on investment purchases differ from the financial service industry's numerous other recurring methods of charging fees to their retail consumers.
Sales loads are less straightforward to analyze for investment lifetime cost-effectiveness, compared to annually recurring charges. (See: Pay less to get more)
If you have [...])
- When to Take Social Security Retirement Benefits (When to Take Social Security Retirement Benefits?
Concerning when to take Social Security retirement benefits, the Boston College Center for Retirement Research has some research in their publications section that addresses this subject. In particular, see "SHOULD WE RAISE SOCIAL SECURITY’S EARLIEST ELIGIBILITY AGE" by Alicia H. Munnell, Kevin B. Meme, Natalia A. Jivan, and Kevin [...])
- 10 Personal Financial and Investment Planning Steps in the Right Direction (Increase your knowledge and accelerate your ability to take leadership in the management of your own personal finances and lifetime investing.
This ten-step personal financial planning process will help you optimize the management of your financial planning and investment management affairs over your lifetime, while greatly reducing the unnecessary waste of your money and your time.
- Screening Mutual Funds On-Line with Morningstar.com (
Screening mutual funds on-line with Morningstar.com
Summary: In this article, The Skilled Investor discusses how to screen mutual funds on-line using our seven scientifically based mutual fund screening criteria. This article focuses on using the free mutual fund screener and database available at Morningstar.com.
In a previous article, The Skilled Investor has discussed minimum requirements [...])
- Schwab S&P 500 Index Fund – Select Shares (SWPPX) capture the Best +10 Fund Authority Score (
Fund Authority Scores rate mutual funds and exchange traded funds (ETFs) on the most important economic factors that influence individual investors' net long term diversified investment fund performance. The Skilled Investor developed the Fund Authority Score system to provide individual investors with concise, objective, and realistic summaries of mutual funds and ETFs for comparisons within [...])
- Understand Your Lifetime Personal Savings Requirements (VeriPlan helps you to understand your lifetime personal savings requirements and whether your current savings rate is sufficient
How much you earn, spend, and save are by far the most dominant determinants of your long-term financial well-being.
You need a means to evaluate your current sustainable lifecycle consumption rate. VeriPlan provides such a means. VeriPlan projects your [...])
- Part 3 of the Never-Do List – What Not to Do with a Financial Advisor (
Part 3 of the The Never-Do List - 22 Good Ways to Avoid Financial Advisor and Investment Counselor Frauds and Scams
This article discusses things that you should "never do" with a financial planner or investment advisor, and it covers unsolicited advice, sales pressure, and account decision-making discretion.
You should never do certain things with a financial [...])
- Your Valuable Assets Are Simply Your Evolving Estate (
Your investment portfolio and other property assets are simply your evolving estate
A previous financial article, “The Solution - ONLY follow financial strategies that are scientific, passive, diversified, savings focused, risk controlled, low cost, and tax efficient,” suggested that investors are much better off with a well-considered financial plan. A stable set of financial beliefs can [...])
- Part 2 of the Biggest Personal Finance Story of the Past 30 Years (< -- Go to Part 1
The Biggest Personal Finance Story of the Past 30 Years - Part 2
To understand what has happened to the market valuation of the financial services sector, particularly over the last 30 years, you should view Figure 4 on page 16 of the financial study by Jeremy Siegel and Jeremy Schwartz [...])
- American Funds – Capital Income Builder Fund – Class A Shares (CAIBX) attain a +4 Fund Authority Score (Fund Authority Scores rate mutual funds and exchange traded funds (ETFs) on the most important economic factors that influence individual investors' net long term diversified investment fund performance. The Skilled Investor developed the Fund Authority Score system to provide individual investors with concise and objective summaries of mutual funds and ETFs for comparisons within investment [...])
- Avoid Very Large Actively Managed Mutual Funds (
Avoid very large actively managed mutual funds
Big actively managed mutual fund portfolio positions and higher percentage ownership of any company’s bonds or common stock are not good things for actively managed mutual funds. Nor, are these big positions and high percentages good for you.
Large portfolio size constrains how efficiently an actively managed mutual fund can [...])
- The Birth of Yet Another Darn Asset Class – Infrastructure (The Birth of Yet Another Darn "Asset Class" - "Infrastructure"
Recently, The Skilled Investor published two articles:
The first article discussed how the financial industry keeps manufacturing new asset classes for brokers and investment advisors to sell to individual investors. The Skilled Investor raised the question of whether these new asset classes are likely to serve the [...])