COMPLAINING TO FEDERAL ENFORCEMENT AGENCIES
First try to solve your problem directly with a creditor. Only if that
fails should you bring more formal complaint procedures. Here's the way
to file a complaint with the Federal agencies responsible for carrying
out consumer credit protection laws.
Complaints About Banks. If you have a complaint about a bank in
connection with any of the Federal credit laws--or if you think any part
of your business with a bank has been handled in an unfair or deceptive
way--you may get advice and help from the Federal Reserve. The practice
you complain about does not have to be covered by Federal law.
Furthermore, you don't have to be a customer of the bank to file a
You should submit your complaint--in writing whenever possible--to the
Division of Consumer and Community Affairs, Board of Governors of the
Federal Reserve System, Washington, D.C. 20551, or to the Reserve Bank
nearest you, as listed on page 43 of this handbook. Be sure to describe
the bank practice you are complaining about and give the name and
address of the bank involved.
The Federal Reserve will write back within 15 days--sometimes with an
answer, sometimes telling you that more time is needed to handle your
complaint. The additional time is required when complex issues are
involved or when the complaint will be investigated by a Federal Reserve
Bank. When this is the case, the Federal Reserve will try to keep you
informed about the progress being made.
The Board supervises only state--chartered banks that are members of the
Federal Reserve System. It will refer complaints about other
institutions to the appropriate Federal regulatory agency and let you
know where your complaint has been referred.
PENALTIES UNDER THE LAWS
You may also take legal action against a creditor. If you decide to
bring a lawsuit, here are the penalties a creditor must pay if you win.
Truth in Lending and Consumer Leasing Acts. If any creditor fails to
disclose information required under these Acts, or gives inaccurate
information, or does not comply with the rules about credit cards or the
right to cancel certain home--secured loans, you as an individual may
sue for actual damages--any money loss you suffer. In addition, you can
sue for twice the finance charge in the case of certain credit
disclosures, or, if a lease is concerned, 25 percent of total monthly
payments. In either case, the least the court may award you if you win
is $100, and the most is $1,000. In any lawsuit that you win, you are
entitled to reimbursement for court costs and attorney's fees.
Class action suits are also permitted. A class action suit is one filed
on behalf of a group of people with similar claims.
Equal Credit Opportunity Act. If you think you can prove that a creditor
has discriminated against you for any reason prohibited by the Act, you
as an individual may sue for actual damages plus punitive damages--that
is, damages for the fact that the law has been violated--of up to
$10,000. In a successful lawsuit, the court will award you court costs
and a reasonable amount for attorney's fees. Class action suits are also
Fair Credit Billing Act. A creditor who breaks the rules for the
correction of billing errors automatically loses the amount owed on the
item in question and any finance charges on it, up to a combined total
of $50--even if the bill was correct. You as an individual may also sue
for actual damages plus twice the amount of any finance charges, but in
any case not less than $100 nor more than $1,000. You are also entitled
to court costs and attorney's fees in a successful lawsuit. Class action
suits are also permitted.
Fair Credit Reporting Act. You may sue any credit reporting agency or
creditor for breaking the rules about who may see your credit records or
for not correcting errors in your file. Again, you are entitled to
actual damages, p]us punitive damages that the court may allow if the
violation is proved to have been intentional. In any successful lawsuit,
you will also be awarded court costs and attorney's fees. A person who
obtains a credit report without proper authorization--or an employee of
a credit reporting agency who gives a credit report to unauthorized
persons--may be fined up to $5,000 or imprisoned for one year, or both.
Electronic Fund Transfer Act. If a financial institution does not follow
the provisions of the EFT Act, you may sue for actual damages (or in
certain cases when the institution fails to correct an error or recredit
an account, for three times actual damages) plus punitive damages of not
less than $100 nor more than $1,000. You are also entitled to court
costs and attorney's fees in a successful lawsuit. Class action suits
are also permitted.
If an institution fails to make an electronic fund transfer, or to stop
payment of a preauthorized transfer when properly instructed by you to
do so, you may sue for all damages that result from the failure.
from Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System
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