When error occurs on credit-card bill, protest by mail, not phone


October 09, 1994|By SUSAN BONDY | SUSAN BONDY,Creators Syndicate

Q: I am having problems with a charge to my MasterCard that I neither made nor authorized.

While on a trip abroad, I had dinner with two friends, and I used my MasterCard to pay for it. I was billed for the service and paid the bill.

On the next month's statement, an additional entry for $77.45 from the same restaurant appeared. This was for a meal I never ordered or received. In fact, I had already returned home by the time this unauthorized transaction took place. The signature on the sales slip was not mine and was an obvious forgery.

I have explained all of this to the credit-card representatives several times, but they continue to bill me and add finance charges.

Someone at MasterCard's toll-free number told me that if I had reported my card stolen, I would not have a problem. My card was never stolen -- it was just used without my authorization.

If you can suggest any individual or company I might write to, I would be most appreciative.

A: Given the facts you've presented here, the bank is clearly in error. You have full protection under the Fair Credit Billing Act, Section 226.12 of Regulation 2. Furthermore, you are not subject to any time limit on the reporting of unauthorized charges.

A billing error occurs when your statement:

* lists a charge you didn't make or charges you cannot identify. This applies to your case.

* lists a charge you did incur but not for the amount specified.

* lists a charge for goods you did not accept or goods not delivered according to your agreement when purchased (for example, wrong quantity, wrong size, wrong address).

* does not reflect credits for returns or payments or contains an error in arithmetic.

When calling an error to the attention of the credit-card issuer, pretend there are no phones. Put everything in writing and keep a copy of all correspondences.

In your letter of dispute, you must include your name, account number and reason for believing a billing error occurred. You should also list the type, date and amount of the error.

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