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In a complex financial industry, the United States government has addressed some of the challenges consumers face in managing day-to-day finances. There are a series of Consumer Protection Laws designed to ensure fair competition. Below are a number of Consumer Protection laws that people would benefit from knowing.

Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA)

Under the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA), you have the right to a free credit report every twelve months from Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion. You also have the right to a free credit report within 60 days of being denied for credit, if you have been a victim of identity theft, if you are on welfare, or if you are unemployed and will be looking for a job within 60 days.

In addition to the right to a free credit report, you also have the right to dispute inaccurate information and to have it investigated within 30 days.

Disputes should be sent directly to the Credit Reporting Agency that is reporting the error – Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion.

Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA)

The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act prohibits debt collectors from using abusive, unfair, or deceptive practices when collecting a debt.

The Credit Card Accountability, Responsibility and Disclosure Act (The CARD Act)

The most recent addition to Consumer Protection Laws, The Credit Card Accountability, Responsibility and Disclosure Act, (or CARD ACT for short) is a law regulating the credit card industry. As of February 22, 2010. The CARD Act brought changes to the credit card issuance practices by giving credit card users greater control and clearer terms for their accounts. More information on The Card Act can be found here:

Truth in Lending

Under the Truth in Lending Act, creditors have to provide you with clear credit terms in easy to read language. The complete Truth in Lending Act can be found at the FDIC's website here:

Fair Credit Billing Act (FCBA)

Under this law you have the right to dispute billing errors, including charges that you did not authorize, charges for items or services that were not agreed upon, and charges with wrong information, such as the date or the amount.

More information, including a sample dispute letter, can be found at the FTC's website here:

Equal Credit Opportunity Act (ECOA)

The Equal Credit Opportunity Act (ECOA) prohibits credit discrimination on the basis of sex, race, marital status, religion, national origin, age, or receipt of public assistance.

More information can be found at the FTC's website here:

Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act (GLB)

 The Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act requires companies to give customers, those with an on-going relationship with the institution, privacy notices that explain the institution's information-sharing practices. The privacy notice must be a clear, concise, and accurate statement of the company's privacy practices; it should include what information the company collects about its consumers and customers, with whom it shares the information, and how it protects or safeguards the information. In turn, consumers have the right to limit some- but not all- sharing of their information. The law requires that financial institutions protect information collected about individuals. For more information, click here

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