Credit Card Billing Dispute with Providian **
What follows is a true story to illustrate how one can resolve a billing dispute with a credit card company (Providian) even when the biller seems to be incompetent or dishonest beyond belief.
Facts: "Jane" opened her credit card statement one month to find that Providian (a top 10 credit card issuer) had made a mistake. She had sent them a check for $180.00 the previous month, but her statement showed that she had only sent $80.00. They had also charged her a $29.00 late fee since the $80.00 payment they had received was less than the minimum required. She immediately phoned them and told them of the error, and they gave her a fax number where she was to fax a copy of the front and back of her cancelled check. She faxed them the proof that very day. But she also did something else -- being aware of the Fair Credit Billing Act, she sent them a certified letter, return receipt requested, because she knew that notifying them by telephone did not protect her legally. As the Fair Credit Billing Act requires, she wrote them a letter informing them of the error, and it contained a copy of the cancelled $180.00 check and mentioned that she had faxed them a copy of her proof as they requested. About a week later she received a canned form letter from Providian acknowledging her letter had been received. She also received a receipt from the Post Office proving that someone at Providian had signed for her letter.
The next month Jane received her statement and the error had not been corrected. She once again phoned Providian who claimed that they had never received the fax containing a copy of the front and back of her cancelled $180.00 check. She faxed a copy of the front and back of the check once again to the number the Providian rep gave her. She also sent another certified letter, return receipt requested, demanding that the error be fixed immediately. About a week later, Jane received another canned, form letter acknowledging receipt of her letter. She also received a receipt from the post office indicating that someone at Providian had signed for her letter.
The third month came and still the error had not been fixed. Now Jane is furious. She sends a third certified letter, return receipt requested that also asks for damages. Her damages include the time she has spent preparing and mailing the letters and the money she has spent sending the correspondence certified mail. Once again, Providian's only response is a canned form letter acknowledging receipt of her correspondence. Jane also received a receipt from the post office proving that someone at Providian signed for her letter.
About a week later, Providian sent her a canned form letter notifying her that she needs to send proof of the error by a certain date or she will forfeit her right to have it corrected. She calls Providian and once again tells the rep what has happened. The rep accuses her of lieing. When Jane asks to speak to a supervisor, the call is mysteriously terminated during the transfer. Jane calls back and again asks for a supervisor, but the call is once again mysteriously terminated during the transfer. She calls a third and fourth time with the same result.
Jane sends a fourth certified letter, return receipt requested to Providian. Again, she asks for more damages for the time and expense incurred trying to resolve this matter. Providian's response to this fourth letter is written by a supervisor who claims Jane must send them proof by X date or she forfeits her right to have the error corrected. The deadline is just two days away. But there is something more interesting about the letter -- not only does it ignore the fact that Jane has sent them three prior certified letters, it is also dated three weeks before Jane receives it. Most interesting of all, it is a response to Jane's fourth letter, yet it is dated before the date of her fourth letter and if that weren't bad enough, it is dated before the date the post office receipt shows Providian even received the fourth letter. They sent a response to a letter before they received it? It is obvious that Providian has back-dated the letter and taken their time mailing it so that they could claim Jane forfeited her right to dispute her bill. [And you can be sure they do this with just about all their customers.] But they are so incompetent, they didn't realize she had sent all those letters certified mail, return receipt requested and had proof that they received them.
Jane's next step was to visit Providian's website and find out who was the bigwig in charge of those in the billing department. She wrote him a certified letter, return receipt requested, with all of her proof accusing Providian of fraud and telling him she would be sending her proof to the California Attorney General's office and the FTC and she asked for monetary damages. He wrote her back apologizing for the mistake and offered her a generous settlement which Jane interpreted as "hush money", but she informed the California AG and the FTC anyway.
The true story above is to illustrate to you why you must communicate with a credit card company by certified mail when it becomes obvious they are going to ignore your billing dispute. You have 60 days to notify them in writing from the date of your billing statement. If you do not notify them in writing during that period of time, you forfeit your right to have the mistake corrected per federal law, the Fair Credit Billing Act. You must send your letter certified mail, return receipt requested so that you have proof someone at the credit card company received the letter. Click here for sample letters.
** Providian is now a defunct company; its assets were acquired by Bank of America