Billing Fraud Attorneys
Posted On behalf of Pfeifer Morgan & Stesiak on Aug 31, 2021 in Consumer Protection
While billing errors like receiving a bill for a returned item or being charged twice for one item are common and easily corrected, there are times when merchants charge for something without your knowledge or express permission and deny wrongdoing.
This is just one example of billing fraud, and it is against federal law. If you have been a victim of fraudulent billing, you may be able to pursue compensation. Our billing fraud lawyers are prepared to review your claim during a free consultation to see what your legal options may be. If you are part of a group of people who suffered similar harm, you may be eligible to join a class action lawsuit.
We may be able to take your case on contingency, which means no upfront fees or fees while working on your case. If your case is successful, we may be able to obtain compensation for our fees. We can discuss our fees in greater detail in your free consultation.
Give us a call today to learn more. Phone: (844) 678-1800.
Reasons to Consider Hiring an Attorney
When billing errors occur and you try to have them corrected, but the creditor continues to deny wrongdoing, it may be in your best interest to get a lawyer involved who understands your rights as a consumer under the Fair Credit Billing Act (FCBA).
The credit card companies and other large businesses that make these billing errors have the resources to protect their interests with little consideration for your rights. Having a knowledgeable and experienced attorney on your side while you try to correct the billing error may be necessary, as a consumer protection lawyer is more likely to understand the legal process and your right to pursue compensation.
Common Examples of Billing Fraud
The FCBA is a federal law geared toward protecting consumers from deceptive billing practices. There are many examples of billing fraud, but the most common are unauthorized charges on your accounts or fees included on your bill that were never originally disclosed.
An unauthorized charge is any billing transaction that you did not make or agree to. This could be a charge that was made by someone else who found or stole your account information, or even someone you do know, but who did not have permission to make the transaction.
There have been several large companies, including AT&T, that have been sued over unauthorized charges to customers and non-customers alike.
When a merchant advertises a certain price, which is usually lower than other competitors, but then ends up charging other fees not originally shown in the advertisement, that merchant could be in violation of federal law.
About 85 percent of Americans say they have been hit with hidden fees in the past, according to a survey by Consumer Reports. The types of companies listed in the survey include:
- Utility companies
- Credit cards
- Car dealerships
- Air travel
- Car rentals
- Investment services
- Live entertainment or sporting events
- Mortgage services
- Insurance services
- Homeowner’s Associations
- Condo Associations
- Apartment buildings
- Retirement services
- City and municipal governments
More and more unexpected charges are showing up in consumers’ billing statements that are often hidden in the fine print of a sales contract or buried at the end of online purchases. Sometimes, merchants are clever enough to hide their fees and unauthorized charges in the “taxes and fees” section of a sale.
Other types of billing errors that may violate the FCBA include:
- Failing to send bills to your current address, even though the creditor has your new address in writing within 20 days of the end of the billing period
- Failing to post payments or credits
- Mathematical errors
- Charges for things you did not receive
- Charges with the wrong date or dollar amount
If you have been a victim of fraudulent billing and have struggled to resolve the issue, you may have legal options. Our billing fraud attorneys may be able to help you get back the money you lost, along with damages.
Contact Pfeifer Morgan & Stesiak today. Call (844) 678-1800.
Compensation for Victims of Billing Fraud
If a creditor refuses to investigate your claims about fraudulent billing, or simply continues to ignore or deny your requests to correct the issue, you may be able to file a lawsuit to pursue compensation. If your lawsuit is successful against the creditor, you may be able to recover twice the amount of any finance charges between $500 and $5,000. Some consumers may be able to recover more if a pattern or practice of violations is established.
Additionally, you may be able to recover compensation for any attorney fees and costs paid during the legal process.
What are Your Billing Rights Under Federal Law?
Under the FCBA, consumers have certain protections and rights to address their concerns about billing errors directly with the creditor.
When the creditor opens an investigation into your claim, you may withhold payment of the disputed amount throughout the investigation. During this time, the creditor may not take any legal action against you or send your bill to a collection agency, or close or restrict your account in any way.
Although a creditor may include a disputed charge in your credit history so long as it is labeled accordingly, new creditors who run your credit report may not use that information to discriminate against you to deny another loan or other line of credit.
If a creditor’s investigation uncovers erroneous billing, the creditor must explain to you in writing that the correction was made to your account. Additionally, the creditor must refund any fees or other charges related to the billing mistake.
Companies that offer open-ended credit must also:
- Provide a written notice when a new account is opened under your name
- Occasionally provide written notice of your right to dispute billing errors
- Provide a billing statement for each billing period in which you owe or are owed more than one dollar or if you have been charged a finance fee
- Send your bill at least 21 days prior to your payment due date for credit cards
- Send a billing statement 21 days before any grace period ends and finance charges are imposed for open-end credit
- Send a statement at least 14 days prior to the date a minimum payment is due to avoid being late for open-end credit, even if no grace period exists
- Promptly credit or refund overpayments and other amounts owed to your account when you are owed more than one dollar
- Issue requested refunds within seven business days after the creditor receives your written request
- Make a good faith effort to refund credit card balance that remained on your account for more than six months
Appealing the Charges
Americans unwittingly spend billions on fraudulent billing every year. Often, these charges go unnoticed or undisputed by the consumer. This is generally because not many people know their options to recover the money that was taken from them through fraudulent means.
According to the Consumer Reports survey, only about 35 percent of respondents said they pushed to get a fee removed or a bill reduced after discovering billing fraud. Of that 35 percent of people who complained, 64 percent said they were successful.
These results show that it is important that you understand your options when appealing a charge that you did not authorize.
Dispute the Fee with the Merchant or Creditor
If you discover a fee on a bill that you do not recognize or did not authorize, your first step should be to report it to the company sending you the bill. Whether this is on a credit card statement or on a bill from a waterfront resort. Generally, this requires the merchant to investigate the disputed fee to provide an explanation of the charge.
You can find a sample letter on the FTC website when filing a claim over erroneous billing. The letter must reach the creditor within 60 days after the first erroneous bill.
If an investigation is conducted, but you disagree with the conclusion of the investigation, you have 10 days after receiving an explanation to indicate you are refusing to pay the disputed amount. This may be reported on your credit history, but it must also include that you do not think you owe money, and the creditor must advise you who gets the reports.
You may be able to file a complaint directly with the FTC against either the merchant or the creditor to see whether the dispute may be resolved without the need for a lawsuit.
Speak to a Licensed Billing Fraud Attorney Today
Understanding your rights as a consumer is important to help hold merchants and creditors accountable when they act in ways that violate federal law. Unfortunately, most people do not know all their rights and large companies often take advantage of this by fraudulently taking money from unwitting consumers.
Our attorneys know your rights and are prepared to help stand up for them. We offer a free consultation to discuss the facts of your claim and see how we may be able to help you pursue the compensation you need.
Call today to schedule a free consultation: (844) 678-1800