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A Quick Overview Of

Six Major Consumer Credit Laws

This is nothing more than a list of major, consumer-related credit laws as I understand them.  This is just an overview, there is much more to these laws than what is provided here.  This information is in no way to be considered legal advice of any kind.  Before applying any of the laws listed here to your own situation, it is highly recommended that you do further research on these laws, and consult an attorney if appropriate.

Truth in Lending Act (1969):
Federal law that mandates disclosure of information about the cost of credit. Both the finance charge (i.e. all charges to borrow money, including interest) and the annual percentage rate or APR (i.e. the percentage cost of credit on a yearly basis) must be displayed prominently on forms and statements used by creditors.  The law provides criminal penalties for willful violators, as well as civil remedies.  It also protects you against unauthorized use of your credit card.  If it is lost or stolen, the maximum amount you have to pay is $50.

Fair Credit Reporting Act (1971):
Federal law that covers the reporting of debt repayment information.  It establishes when a credit reporting agency may provide a report to someone; states that obsolete information must be taken off (seven to ten years); gives consumers the right to know what is in their credit report; requires that both a credit bureau and information provider (i.e. department store) have an obligation to correct wrong information; gives consumers the right to dispute inaccurate information and add a 100-word statement to their report to explain accurate negative information; and gives consumers the right to know what credit bureau provided the report when they are turned down for credit.

Fair Credit Billing Act (1975):
Federal law that covers credit card billing problems. It applies to all open-end credit accounts (i.e. credit cards and overdraft checking). States that consumers should send a written billing error notice to the creditor within 60 days (after receipt of first bill containing an error), which the creditor must acknowledge within 30 days. The creditor must investigate and may not damage a consumer's credit rating while a dispute is pending.

Equal Credit Opportunity Act (1975):
Federal law that ensures that consumers are given an equal chance to receive credit.  Prohibits discrimination on the basis of gender, race, marital status, religion, national origin, age or receipt of public assistance.  Lenders cannot ask about your plans for having children or refuse to consider consistently received alimony or child support payments as income. If you are denied credit, you have a legal right to know why.

Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (1978):
Federal law that prohibits debt collectors from engaging in unfair, deceptive or abusive practices when collecting debts. Collectors must send a written notice telling the name of the creditor and the amount owed; collector may not contact consumer if he or she disputes in writing within 30 days (unless collector furnishes proof of the debt); collectors must identify themselves on the phone and can call only between 8 am and 9 pm unless a consumer agrees to another time; and collectors cannot call consumers at work if they are told not to.

Fair Credit and Charge Card Disclosure Act (1989):
A part of the Truth in Lending Act that mandates a box on credit card applications that describes key features and cost (i.e. APR, grace period for purchases, minimum finance charge, balance calculation method, annual fees, transaction fees for cash advances and penalty fees such as over-the-limit fees and late payment fees).

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