Understand Your Credit Consumer Rights - dummies

Understand Your Credit Consumer Rights

By John Ventura, Mary Reed

Federal laws and agencies govern lender behavior when you apply for and use credit, protecting you from creditors who engage in illegal or bad credit practices.

  • The Equal Credit Opportunity Act: This law prohibits creditors from discriminating against you because of your race, country of national origin, gender, age, religion, or marital status. Lenders are also prohibited from discriminating against you because you receive public assistance.

  • The Home Equity Loan Consumer Protection Act: This law requires lenders to give you specific kinds of written information about the terms of a home equity loan or home equity line of credit before you apply for it.

  • The Truth in Lending Act: This law requires creditors to provide you with specific written information about the terms of their credit offers in order to help you understand the cost of the credit and to make it easier for you to compare credit offers.

If you believe that a creditor has violated your rights under one of these laws, you can try to resolve the problem by

  • Writing a complaint letter to the creditor.

  • Contacting a consumer law attorney. Depending on the nature of your problem and the amount of money involved, the attorney may recommend filing a lawsuit.

  • Filing a formal complaint with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) if your complaint is with a creditor other than a bank, savings and loan, or credit union. You can file a complaint online at the Federal Trade Commission Web site or by calling 877-382-4357.

    It’s a good idea to complain to the FTC even if you sue the creditor. If the FTC receives a lot of complaints about the creditor or about a particular practice within the creditor’s industry, the organization may file a class action lawsuit on behalf of all consumers who have been harmed by the creditor. Also, sometimes as a result of consumer complaints, Congress passes new legislation or amends existing laws.

If a bank, savings and loan, or credit union has violated your legal rights, register a complaint with the federal agency or office that oversees the lender. Exactly who to contact depends on the kind of lender you want to complain about. Here are your options: