Is your credit card, that little strip of plastic nestled in your wallet, really a “consumer protection superweapon?”
That’s the case made by a fascinating piece from the Seattle Times. Written by Kevin Brasler of Puget Sound Consumers’ Checkbook, a non-profit consumer protection organization, the Times piece does a great job of illustrating what benefits a credit card can offer to a consumer in the event of “lousy service scenarios,” faulty goods, or fraudulent charges.
As Brasler notes, the “genesis of these protections is the federal Fair Credit Billing Act,” a law which “protects you from fraud by requiring credit-card companies — not consumers — to deal with fraudulent charges” and “billing errors.”
“What many consumers don’t know is that the law also requires your credit-card company to give you the chance to dispute charges and withhold payment for goods and services that you didn’t accept or that weren’t delivered as promised. This means that if you used a credit card to pay for something that isn’t satisfactory, and you tried to work it out with a seller who won’t budge, you can tell the company that issued your credit card you want to contest the payment and get your money back. Ditto for defective or undelivered products.”
The mechanism by which consumers can get this done is known as a “chargeback,” a topic we’ve covered elsewhere on this blog before. To put it succinctly, a chargeback is a dispute that the consumer levies against the seller or service provider with their credit card company.
And while sellers do get the opportunity to protest these disputes (since they can end up costing dearly), Brasler notes that, “as a practical matter, sellers rarely succeed in reversing chargebacks,” provided that the consumer has attempted to return the merchandise, or has documented the material or service defect in question. Basically, the consumer should “give the offending company a reasonable chance to make things right” before disputing the charge, Brasler writes.
Another item of particular note? Brasler writes that, when he solicited people for chargeback stories, he found that:
“Billing mistakes and cases of theft and fraud, in particular, were handled promptly — no surprise since laws clearly protect consumers from these types of problems.”
And even for “disputed transactions related to lousy service or defective merchandise,” Brasler found,
“[credit card] companies usually removed the charges quickly, with few or no questions asked. Sometimes credit-card companies investigated, which took a month or two and some back-and-forth between customers and sellers, but customers almost always won.”
Indeed, he suggests:
“Since credit-card issuers strongly desire to keep their customers happy, the protections they provide are in practice even broader than your rights under the law.”
For more great information and insights – including how to look up your card issuer’s policies on chargebacks, and some discussion of consumer protections afforded to debit card users – we encourage you to read the piece in full here, courtesy of the Seattle Times.
Led by Attorney Michael D. Finn with 50 years of experience, the Finn Law Group is a consumer protection firm specializing in timeshare law. Our lawyers understand vacation ownership as well as the many pitfalls of the secondary market of timeshare resales. If you feel you have been victimized by a timeshare company, contact our offices for a free consultation. Know your rights as a consumer and don’t hesitate to drop us a line with any questions or concerns.