Comment for 1026.13 - Billing Error Resolution
1. Creditor's failure to comply with billing error provisions. Failure to comply with the error resolution procedures may result in the forfeiture of disputed amounts as prescribed in section 161(e) of the Act. (Any failure to comply may also be a violation subject to the liability provisions of section 130 of the Act.)
2. Charges for error resolution. If a billing error occurred, whether as alleged or in a different amount or manner, the creditor may not impose a charge related to any aspect of the error resolution process (including charges for documentation or investigation) and must credit the consumer's account if such a charge was assessed pending resolution. Since the Act grants the consumer error resolution rights, the creditor should avoid any chilling effect on the good faith assertion of errors that might result if charges are assessed when no billing error has occurred.
13(a) Definition of Billing Error
1. Actual, implied, or apparent authority. Whether use of a credit card or open-end credit plan is authorized is determined by state or other applicable law. (See comment 12(b)(1)(ii)-1.)
1. Coverage. i. Section 1026.13(a)(3) covers disputes about goods or services that are “not accepted” or “not delivered * * * as agreed”; for example:
A. The appearance on a periodic statement of a purchase, when the consumer refused to take delivery of goods because they did not comply with the contract.
B. Delivery of property or services different from that agreed upon.
C. Delivery of the wrong quantity.
D. Late delivery.
E. Delivery to the wrong location.
ii. Section 1026.13(a)(3) does not apply to a dispute relating to the quality of property or services that the consumer accepts. Whether acceptance occurred is determined by state or other applicable law.
2. Application to purchases made using a third-party payment intermediary. Section 1026.13(a)(3) generally applies to disputes about goods and services that are purchased using a third-party payment intermediary, such as a person-to-person Internet payment service, funded through use of a consumer's open-end credit plan when the goods or services are not accepted by the consumer or not delivered to the consumer as agreed. However, the extension of credit must be made at the time the consumer purchases the good or service and match the amount of the transaction to purchase the good or service (including ancillary taxes and fees). Under these circumstances, the property or service for which the extension of credit is made is not the payment service, but rather the good or service that the consumer has purchased using the payment service. Thus, for example, § 1026.13(a)(3) would not apply to purchases using a third party payment intermediary that is funded through use of an open-end credit plan if:
i. The extension of credit is made to fund the third-party payment intermediary “account,” but the consumer does not contemporaneously use those funds to purchase a good or service at that time.
ii. The extension of credit is made to fund only a portion of the purchase amount, and the consumer uses other sources to fund the remaining amount.
3. Notice to merchant not required. A consumer is not required to first notify the merchant or other payee from whom he or she has purchased goods or services and attempt to resolve a dispute regarding the good or service before providing a billing-error notice to the creditor under § 1026.13(a)(3) asserting that the goods or services were not accepted or delivered as agreed.
1. Computational errors. In periodic statements that are combined with other information, the error resolution procedures are triggered only if the consumer asserts a computational billing error in the credit-related portion of the periodic statement. For example, if a bank combines a periodic statement reflecting the consumer's credit card transactions with the consumer's monthly checking statement, a computational error in the checking account portion of the combined statement is not a billing error.
1. Documentation requests. A request for documentation such as receipts or sales slips, unaccompanied by an allegation of an error under § 1026.13(a) or a request for additional clarification under § 1026.13(a)(6), does not trigger the error resolution procedures. For example, a request for documentation merely for purposes such as tax preparation or recordkeeping does not trigger the error resolution procedures.
13(b) Billing Error Notice
1. Withdrawal of billing error notice by consumer. The creditor need not comply with the requirements of § 1026.13(c) through (g) of this section if the consumer concludes that no billing error occurred and voluntarily withdraws the billing error notice. The consumer's withdrawal of a billing error notice may be oral, electronic or written.
2. Form of written notice. The creditor may require that the written notice not be made on the payment medium or other material accompanying the periodic statement if the creditor so stipulates in the billing rights statement required by §§ 1026.6(a)(5) or (b)(5)(iii), and 1026.9(a). In addition, if the creditor stipulates in the billing rights statement that it accepts billing error notices submitted electronically, and states the means by which a consumer may electronically submit a billing error notice, a notice sent in such manner will be deemed to satisfy the written notice requirement for purposes of § 1026.13(b).
1. Failure to send periodic statement - timing. If the creditor has failed to send a periodic statement, the 60-day period runs from the time the statement should have been sent. Once the statement is provided, the consumer has another 60 days to assert any billing errors reflected on it.
2. Failure to reflect credit - timing. If the periodic statement fails to reflect a credit to the account, the 60-day period runs from transmittal of the statement on which the credit should have appeared.
3. Transmittal. If a consumer has arranged for periodic statements to be held at the financial institution until called for, the statement is “transmitted” when it is first made available to the consumer.
1. Identity of the consumer. The billing error notice need not specify both the name and the account number if the information supplied enables the creditor to identify the consumer's name and account.
13(c) Time for Resolution; General Procedures
1. Temporary or provisional corrections. A creditor may temporarily correct the consumer's account in response to a billing error notice, but is not excused from complying with the remaining error resolution procedures within the time limits for resolution.
2. Correction without investigation. A creditor may correct a billing error in the manner and amount asserted by the consumer without the investigation or the determination normally required. The creditor must comply, however, with all other applicable provisions. If a creditor follows this procedure, no presumption is created that a billing error occurred.
3. Relationship with § 1026.12. The consumer's rights under the billing error provisions in § 1026.13 are independent of the provisions set forth in § 1026.12(b) and (c). (See comments 12(b)-4, 12(b)(3)-3, and 12(c)-1.)
1. Time for resolution. The phrase two complete billing cycles means two actual billing cycles occurring after receipt of the billing error notice, not a measure of time equal to two billing cycles. For example, if a creditor on a monthly billing cycle receives a billing error notice mid-cycle, it has the remainder of that cycle plus the next two full billing cycles to resolve the error.
2. Finality of error resolution procedure. A creditor must comply with the error resolution procedures and complete its investigation to determine whether an error occurred within two complete billing cycles as set forth in § 1026.13(c)(2). Thus, for example, § 1026.13(c)(2) prohibits a creditor from reversing amounts previously credited for an alleged billing error even if the creditor obtains evidence after the error resolution time period has passed indicating that the billing error did not occur as asserted by the consumer. Similarly, if a creditor fails to mail or deliver a written explanation setting forth the reason why the billing error did not occur as asserted, or otherwise fails to comply with the error resolution procedures set forth in § 1026.13(f), the creditor generally must credit the disputed amount and related finance or other charges, as applicable, to the consumer's account. However, if a consumer receives more than one credit to correct the same billing error, § 1026.13 does not prevent a creditor from reversing amounts it has previously credited to correct that error, provided that the total amount of the remaining credits is equal to or more than the amount of the error and that the consumer does not incur any fees or other charges as a result of the timing of the creditor's reversal. For example, assume that a consumer asserts a billing error with respect to a $100 transaction and that the creditor posts a $100 credit to the consumer's account to correct that error during the time period set forth in § 1026.13(c)(2). However, following that time period, a merchant or other person honoring the credit card issues a $100 credit to the consumer to correct the same error. In these circumstances, § 1026.13(c)(2) does not prohibit the creditor from reversing its $100 credit once the $100 credit from the merchant or other person has posted to the consumer's account.
13(d) Rules Pending Resolution
1. Disputed amount. Disputed amount is the dollar amount alleged by the consumer to be in error. When the allegation concerns the description or identification of the transaction (such as the date or the seller's name) rather than a dollar amount, the disputed amount is the amount of the transaction or charge that corresponds to the disputed transaction identification. If the consumer alleges a failure to send a periodic statement under § 1026.13(a)(7), the disputed amount is the entire balance owing.
13(d)(1) Consumer's Right To Withhold Disputed Amount; Collection Action Prohibited
1. Prohibited collection actions. During the error resolution period, the creditor is prohibited from trying to collect the disputed amount from the consumer. Prohibited collection actions include, for example, instituting court action, taking a lien, or instituting attachment proceedings.
2. Right to withhold payment. If the creditor reflects any disputed amount or related finance or other charges on the periodic statement, and is therefore required to make the disclosure under § 1026.13(d)(4), the creditor may comply with that disclosure requirement by indicating that payment of any disputed amount is not required pending resolution. Making a disclosure that only refers to the disputed amount would, of course, in no way affect the consumer's right under § 1026.13(d)(1) to withhold related finance and other charges. The disclosure under § 1026.13(d)(4) need not appear in any specific place on the periodic statement, need not state the specific amount that the consumer may withhold, and may be preprinted on the periodic statement.
3. Imposition of additional charges on undisputed amounts. The consumer's withholding of a disputed amount from the total bill cannot subject undisputed balances (including new purchases or cash advances made during the present or subsequent cycles) to the imposition of finance or other charges. For example, if on an account with a grace period (that is, an account in which paying the new balance in full allows the consumer to avoid the imposition of additional finance charges), a consumer disputes a $2 item out of a total bill of $300 and pays $298 within the grace period, the consumer would not lose the grace period as to any undisputed amounts, even if the creditor determines later that no billing error occurred. Furthermore, finance or other charges may not be imposed on any new purchases or advances that, absent the unpaid disputed balance, would not have finance or other charges imposed on them. Finance or other charges that would have been incurred even if the consumer had paid the disputed amount would not be affected.
4. Automatic payment plans - coverage. The coverage of this provision is limited to the card issuer's automatic payment plans, whether or not the consumer's asset account is held by the card issuer or by another financial institution. It does not apply to automatic or bill-payment plans offered by financial institutions other than the credit card issuer.
5. Automatic payment plans - time of notice. While the card issuer does not have to restore or prevent the debiting of a disputed amount if the billing error notice arrives after the three-business-day cut-off, the card issuer must, however, prevent the automatic debit of any part of the disputed amount that is still outstanding and unresolved at the time of the next scheduled debit date.
13(d)(2) Adverse Credit Reports Prohibited
1. Report of dispute. Although the creditor must not issue an adverse credit report because the consumer fails to pay the disputed amount or any related charges, the creditor may report that the amount or the account is in dispute. Also, the creditor may report the account as delinquent if undisputed amounts remain unpaid.
2. Person. During the error resolution period, the creditor is prohibited from making an adverse credit report about the disputed amount to any person - including employers, insurance companies, other creditors, and credit bureaus.
3. Creditor's agent. Whether an agency relationship exists between a creditor and an issuer of an adverse credit report is determined by state or other applicable law.
13(e) Procedures If Billing Error Occurred as Asserted
1. Correction of error. The phrase as applicable means that the necessary corrections vary with the type of billing error that occurred. For example, a misidentified transaction (or a transaction that is identified by one of the alternative methods in § 1026.8) is cured by properly identifying the transaction and crediting related finance and any other charges imposed. The creditor is not required to cancel the amount of the underlying obligation incurred by the consumer.
2. Form of correction notice. The written correction notice may take a variety of forms. It may be sent separately, or it may be included on or with a periodic statement that is mailed within the time for resolution. If the periodic statement is used, the amount of the billing error must be specifically identified. If a separate billing error correction notice is provided, the accompanying or subsequent periodic statement reflecting the corrected amount may simply identify it as credit.
3. Discovery of information after investigation period. See comment 13(c)(2)-2.
13(f) Procedures If Different Billing Error or No Billing Error Occurred
1. Different billing error. Examples of a different billing error include:
i. Differences in the amount of an error (for example, the customer asserts a $55.00 error but the error was only $53.00).
ii. Differences in other particulars asserted by the consumer (such as when a consumer asserts that a particular transaction never occurred, but the creditor determines that only the seller's name was disclosed incorrectly).
2. Form of creditor's explanation. The written explanation (which also may notify the consumer of corrections to the account) may take a variety of forms. It may be sent separately, or it may be included on or with a periodic statement that is mailed within the time for resolution. If the creditor uses the periodic statement for the explanation and correction(s), the corrections must be specifically identified. If a separate explanation, including the correction notice, is provided, the enclosed or subsequent periodic statement reflecting the corrected amount may simply identify it as a credit. The explanation may be combined with the creditor's notice to the consumer of amounts still owing, which is required under § 1026.13(g)(1), provided it is sent within the time limit for resolution. (See commentary to § 1026.13(e).)
3. Reasonable investigation. A creditor must conduct a reasonable investigation before it determines that no billing error occurred or that a different billing error occurred from that asserted. In conducting its investigation of an allegation of a billing error, the creditor may reasonably request the consumer's cooperation. The creditor may not automatically deny a claim based solely on the consumer's failure or refusal to comply with a particular request, including providing an affidavit or filing a police report. However, if the creditor otherwise has no knowledge of facts confirming the billing error, the lack of information resulting from the consumer's failure or refusal to comply with a particular request may lead the creditor reasonably to terminate the investigation. The procedures involved in investigating alleged billing errors may differ depending on the billing error type.
i. Unauthorized transaction. In conducting an investigation of a notice of billing error alleging an unauthorized transaction under § 1026.13(a)(1), actions such as the following represent steps that a creditor may take, as appropriate, in conducting a reasonable investigation:
A. Reviewing the types or amounts of purchases made in relation to the consumer's previous purchasing pattern.
B. Reviewing where the purchases were delivered in relation to the consumer's residence or place of business.
C. Reviewing where the purchases were made in relation to where the consumer resides or has normally shopped.
D. Comparing any signature on credit slips for the purchases to the signature of the consumer (or an authorized user in the case of a credit card account) in the creditor's records, including other credit slips.
E. Requesting documentation to assist in the verification of the claim.
F. Requiring a written, signed statement from the consumer (or authorized user, in the case of a credit card account). For example, the creditor may include a signature line on a billing rights form that the consumer may send in to provide notice of the claim. However, a creditor may not require the consumer to provide an affidavit or signed statement under penalty of perjury as a part of a reasonable investigation.
G. Requesting a copy of a police report, if one was filed.
H. Requesting information regarding the consumer's knowledge of the person who allegedly obtained an extension of credit on the account or of that person's authority to do so.
ii. Nondelivery of property or services. In conducting an investigation of a billing error notice alleging the nondelivery of property or services under § 1026.13(a)(3), the creditor shall not deny the assertion unless it conducts a reasonable investigation and determines that the property or services were actually delivered, mailed, or sent as agreed.
iii. Incorrect information. In conducting an investigation of a billing error notice alleging that information appearing on a periodic statement is incorrect because a person honoring the consumer's credit card or otherwise accepting an access device for an open-end plan has made an incorrect report to the creditor, the creditor shall not deny the assertion unless it conducts a reasonable investigation and determines that the information was correct.
13(g) Creditor's Rights and Duties After Resolution
1. Amounts owed by consumer. Amounts the consumer still owes may include both minimum periodic payments and related finance and other charges that accrued during the resolution period. As explained in the commentary to § 1026.13(d)(1), even if the creditor later determines that no billing error occurred, the creditor may not include finance or other charges that are imposed on undisputed balances solely as a result of a consumer's withholding payment of a disputed amount.
2. Time of notice. The creditor need not send the notice of amount owed within the time period for resolution, although it is under a duty to send the notice promptly after resolution of the alleged error. If the creditor combines the notice of the amount owed with the explanation required under § 1026.13(f)(1), the combined notice must be provided within the time limit for resolution.
1. Grace period if no error occurred. If the creditor determines, after a reasonable investigation, that a billing error did not occur as asserted, and the consumer was entitled to a grace period at the time the consumer provided the billing error notice, the consumer must be given a period of time equal to the grace period disclosed under § 1026.6(a)(1) or (b)(2) and § 1026.7(a)(8) or (b)(8) to pay any disputed amounts due without incurring additional finance or other charges. However, the creditor need not allow a grace period disclosed under the above-mentioned sections to pay the amount due under § 1026.13(g)(1) if no error occurred and the consumer was not entitled to a grace period at the time the consumer asserted the error. For example, assume that a creditor provides a consumer a grace period of 20 days to pay a new balance to avoid finance charges, and that the consumer did not carry an outstanding balance from the prior month. If the consumer subsequently asserts a billing error for the current statement period within the 20-day grace period, and the creditor determines that no billing error in fact occurred, the consumer must be given at least 20 days (i.e., the full disclosed grace period) to pay the amount due without incurring additional finance charges. Conversely, if the consumer was not entitled to a grace period at the time the consumer asserted the billing error, for example, if the consumer did not pay the previous monthly balance of undisputed charges in full, the creditor may assess finance charges on the disputed balance for the entire period the item was in dispute.
1. Time for payment. The consumer has a minimum of 10 days to pay (measured from the time the consumer could reasonably be expected to have received notice of the amount owed) before the creditor may issue an adverse credit report; if an initially disclosed grace period allows the consumer a longer time in which to pay, the consumer has the benefit of that longer period.
1. Credit reporting. Under § 1026.13(g)(4)(i) and (iii) the creditor's additional credit reporting responsibilities must be accomplished promptly. The creditor need not establish costly procedures to fulfill this requirement. For example, a creditor that reports to a credit bureau on scheduled updates need not transmit corrective information by an unscheduled computer or magnetic tape; it may provide the credit bureau with the correct information by letter or other commercially reasonable means when using the scheduled update would not be “prompt.” The creditor is not responsible for ensuring that the credit bureau corrects its information immediately.
2. Adverse report to credit bureau. If a creditor made an adverse report to a credit bureau that disseminated the information to other creditors, the creditor fulfills its § 1026.13(g)(4)(ii) obligations by providing the consumer with the name and address of the credit bureau.
13(i) Relation to Electronic Fund Transfer Act and Regulation E
1. Coverage. Credit extended directly from a non-overdraft credit line is governed solely by Regulation Z, even though a combined credit card/access device is used to obtain the extension.
2. Incidental credit under agreement. Credit extended incident to an electronic fund transfer under an agreement between the consumer and the financial institution is governed by § 1026.13(i), which provides that certain error resolution procedures in both this part and Regulation E apply. Incidental credit that is not extended under an agreement between the consumer and the financial institution is governed solely by the error resolution procedures in Regulation E. For example, credit inadvertently extended incident to an electronic fund-transfer, such as under an overdraft service not subject to Regulation Z, is governed solely by the Regulation E error resolution procedures, if the bank and the consumer do not have an agreement to extend credit when the consumer's account is overdrawn.
3. Application to debit/credit transactions-examples. If a consumer withdraws money at an automated teller machine and activates an overdraft credit feature on the checking account:
i. An error asserted with respect to the transaction is subject, for error resolution purposes, to the applicable Regulation E (12 CFR Part 1005) provisions (such as timing and notice) for the entire transaction.
ii. The creditor need not provisionally credit the consumer's account, under 12 CFR 1005.11(c)(2)(i), for any portion of the unpaid extension of credit.
iii. The creditor must credit the consumer's account under § 1005.11(c) with any finance or other charges incurred as a result of the alleged error.
iv. The provisions of §§ 1026.13(d) and (g) apply only to the credit portion of the transaction.