The fundamental federal laws that regulate credit are the Fair Credit Reporting Act[1], Equal Credit Opportunity Act[2], Fair Credit Billing Act[3], and Fair Debt Collection Practices Act[4].

The Fair Credit Reporting Act values the accuracy, fairness, and privacy of information in the files of consumer reporting agencies.  It also controls the use of credit reports and requires consumer reporting agencies to maintain correct and complete files. According to this Act, you have a right to review your credit report and to have incorrect information corrected.  You have the right to know if you have been denied credit, insurance, or employment based on a credit report.

The Equal Credit Opportunity Act requires that individual creditors apply credit standards in a fair manner, so that all consumers are given a fair chance to obtain credit. It does not require all creditors to have the same standards, nor does it guarantee approval of loan applications. In reviewing your credit application, lenders cannot discriminate on the basis of sex, color, marital status, race, religion, national origin, age, income from assistance programs, or if you exercise your rights under the Consumer Protection Act. The only acceptable criteria are your ability and intent to repay funds borrowed.

The Fair Credit Billing Act provides for the prompt correction of errors on open-end credit accounts (department store credit accounts, for example) and protects consumers’ credit ratings while they are settling disputes. Under this law, if a consumer is disputing a charge, creditors cannot report the consumer’s account as delinquent. This applies to open-end credit instruments, such as credit cards, revolving charge accounts, and overdraft checking. Consumers who question an item are responsible for notifying the creditor in writing within 60 days of receiving the bill. The creditor must acknowledge the notice within 30 days and may not do anything to harm the consumer’s credit rating while the item is in dispute.

The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act promotes the fair treatment of consumers by prohibiting debt collectors from using unfair, deceptive, or abusive practices.  The Act does not allow calls to a debtor before 8:00 a.m. and after 9:00 p.m.  A debt collector is not allowed to communicate with anyone other than the debtor or the debtor’s attorney, without express permission.  Creditors may not give false, misleading, or threatening statements.  The Act subjects debt collectors to actual damages, attorney’s fees, and costs.  Similarly, section 559.72, Florida Statutes, prohibits anyone collecting a consumer debt from pretending to be a law enforcement officer or a representative of any governmental agency, threatening force or violence, threatening to disclose information regarding the debt to another, or misrepresenting that the collection effort is from an attorney.

[1] 15 U.S.C. § 1681

[2] 15 U.S.C. § 1691 et seq.

[3] 15 U.S.C. § 1601 et seq.

[4] 15 U.S.C. § 1692