CONSUMERS | Credit and Debt Issues

Credit card purchases--your rights

Many credit purchases are subject to a "cooling off" period during which you may cancel your purchase and return the product, assuming you have not damaged it in the meantime.

If charges appear on your credit card that you did not make, your liability for those charges is limited by law in many cases to $50.

However, you must promptly notify your credit card issuer to be able to challenge such charges. 

Check with your card issuer to determine where and how to report unauthorized charges. This is extremely important because the time in which you must notify your issuer to avoid further liability may be as short as two business days for ATM and debit cards.

Debt reporting and collection practices

If you find yourself getting behind in paying your debts, it won't be long before your creditors begin calling you about your accounts. When they do, they are supposed to abide by a number of federal and state laws and regulations that govern how and when they can contact you. For example, they are not allowed to 

  • call you during certain times of the day 
  • threaten you in certain ways 
  • report information to others in ways that can damage you

Creditors and collection agencies will often violate these rules and when they do, you have certain rights that you can enforce in the courts and in some instances the creditor or collection agency can be made to pay your attorneys' fees in addition to damages.


Filing for bankruptcy is not a pleasant experience, but sometimes that is your only recourse. At that point, you absolutely should seek the advice of a competent bankruptcy attorney.

Be wary of offers by so-called debt counselors to help you avoid bankruptcy. Although many of these companies are legitimate, others will merely drag out your payments and "compromise" your claims with your creditors in a way that will affect your credit rating as badly as a bankruptcy would. And of course, you will be paying them for this "service." So, before signing up with one of these services, check them out with the Better Business Bureau and your state's consumer protection agency.