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Research: Filing a Credit Complaint? -

First try to resolve your complaint directly with the creditor or bank involved. If you are still unable to resolve the problem, you may file a written complaint with federal agencies responsible for enforcing consumer credit protection laws.

Filing a Complaint with Federal Enforcement Agencies

If you have a complaint about a bank or other financial institution, the Federal Reserve System may be able to help you. The Federal Reserve System investigates consumer complaints received against state-chartered banks that are members of the System. Complaints about these types of banks will be investigated by one of the 12 Federal Reserve Banks around the country. The Federal Reserve will refer complaints about other institutions to the appropriate federal regulatory agency and let you know where your complaint has been referred. Or you may write directly to the appropriate federal agency by referring to the listing at the end of this publication. Many of these agencies do not handle individual complaints; however, they will use information about your credit experiences to help enforce the credit laws.

When writing to the Federal Reserve, 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, DC 20551. Be sure to provide the complete name and address of the bank, a brief description of your complaint, and any documentation that may help us investigate your complaint. Please do not send original documents, only copies; remember to sign and date your letter. The Federal Reserve will acknowledge your complaint within 15 business days, letting you know whether a Federal Reserve Bank will investigate your complaint or whether your complaint will be forwarded to another federal agency for attention.

For complaints investigated by the Federal Reserve (those involving state-chartered member banks), the Reserve Bank will analyze the bank's response to your complaint to ensure that your concerns have been addressed and will send you a letter about the findings. If the investigation reveals that a Federal Reserve regulation has been violated, the Reserve Bank will inform you of the violation and the corrective action the bank has been directed to take.

Although the Federal Reserve investigates all complaints about the banks it regulates, it does not have the authority to resolve all types of problems, such as contractual or factual disputes or disagreements about bank policies or procedures. In many instances, however, if you file a complaint, a bank may voluntarily work with you to resolve your situation. If the matter is not resolved, we will advise you whether you should consider legal counsel to resolve your complaint.

Penalties under the Laws

If you decide to bring a lawsuit against a creditor, 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 and 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 this 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 permitted.

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, plus 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 failure.