We hear from a lot of you who feel you were not fairly treated by a business, but don’t know what to do about it. So we looked into the top consumer rights that could save you time and money.
Here’s what Consumer Attorney Andrew Hart told us we should all know:
1. If you want to stop a debt collector from calling you, you can send a letter directing them to stop contacting you. (Fair Debt Collection Practices Act)
2. If you’re buying a new or used car, the dealership is required by federal law to display the “Buyer’s Guide” in a prominent place on the vehicle . If it’s not, beware (http://janhoran.com/images/scan0003.jpg)(https://www.ftc.gov/tips-advice/business-center/guidance/dealers-guide-used-car-rule)
3. You are entitled to one free credit report per year from each of the three credit bureau (http://www.annualcreditreport.com). Doing so will not impact your credit score.
4. If you are in danger of losing your home to foreclosure or are falling behind on payments, South Carolina Help (http://www.schelp.gov) is a South Carolina program that can offer you funds to save your home. The application and process is free.
5. If you are financing a purchase, the company you are financing with is required to give you a copy of your financing contract showing the purchase price, interest rate, and total amount you’ll pay in interest (Truth in Lending Act)
6. If you need to speak to a lawyer, the South Carolina Bar has a quick, easy and cheap way to find one in the area you need. The South Carolina Bar Referral Service (1800-868-2284) can provide you with the name of an attorney in your area who practices in your area of need. Consultations are guaranteed to be $50 or less.
7. South Carolina limits how debt collectors communicate with consumers. Some of the things you might not know: (1) debt collectors can only call you between the hours of 8 am and PM; (2) they cannot threaten to have you arrested, or threaten you with violence or threaten to destroy your property; (3) cannot contact you at work if you have requested that they stop doing so; (4) cannot use obscene or profane language; and (5) cannot contact family members except to learn a consumer’s whereabouts.
8. Regarding car repossessions – your finance company cannot repossess your vehicle without sending you a “Right to Cure” notice first. It is a notice that comes by mail when you are ten or more days late on a payment that gives you no less than twenty days to pay the past-due amount. ONLY after that date can your vehicle be repossessed for non-payment.
9. If you find something you don’t agree with on your credit report, you can write to the credit bureau and dispute the entry. Simply send a letter to the bureau’s dispute address (these can be found on their respective websites), state what the error is, include a copy of the page of your credit report with the information, and make sure to send a copy of it to the company who has the account you’re dispute. The credit bureau has thirty days to investigate and verify the accuracy of the entry, or fix the entry if it is incorrect.
10. If you get a phone call from a debt collector that you don’t recognize, beware. Always ask for the full name of the debt collector, the mailing and physical address of their business, the full name of the individual you are speaking to, the original creditor of the debt they are trying to collect, and any account number associated with the account. With personal information of consumers readily available, scams are everywhere. If they are legitimate, they will provide this information. Do not give out ANY personal information, including social security numbers, credit cards, bank accounts, or make any agreement to pay any money, etc.
11. If a new debt collector is contacting you for the first time, there’s certain information they have to give you about the debt, and you have the right within 30 days to dispute the debt and obtain validation of the debt. Within 5 days of the collector’s initial contact with a consumer, a debt collector shall, unless the following information is contained in the initial communication or the consumer has paid the debt, send the consumer a written notice containing-(1) the amount of the debt; (2) the name of the creditor to whom the debt is owed; (3) a statement that unless the consumer, within thirty days after receipt of the notice, disputes the validity of the debt, or any portion thereof, the debt will be assumed to be valid by the debt collector; (4) a statement that if the consumer notifies the debt collector in writing within the thirty-day period that the debt, or any portion thereof, is disputed, the debt collector will obtain verification of the debt or a copy of a judgment against the consumer and a copy of such verification or judgment will be mailed to the consumer by the debt collector; and (5) a statement that, upon the consumer’s written request within the thirty-day period, the debt collector will provide the consumer with the name and address of the original creditor, if different from the current creditor.