New guide translates credit card rights into plain English

By kdilworth

If you suspected your credit card company isn't playing by the rules, would you even know what your rights are or how to file a complaint? There are laws to protect cardholders -- yet it can be hard to wade through the legal jargon.

A new guide from the UK Cards Association explains your rights in plain English.

What's the guide all about?
There are approximately 30 million people in Britain using credit cards on a regular basis, according to the UK Cards Association. Yet many have no idea what protections they are entitled to. The guide, entitled "Credit cards -- your rights, a consumer guide," has been approved for clarity by the Plain English Campaign, a group that fights for easy-to-understand public communication. credit-card rights

What's in the guide?
The guide draws from various UK consumer-protection laws and translates them into clear and simple terms. Reading it should leave you with in understanding of what you should expect from your credit card company and which protections you can expect from the government.

Topics include:

  • Your rights if you don't get what you paid for: Unlike users of cash or cheques, credit card holders are well protected if something goes wrong with their purchase. Section 75 of the Consumer Credit Act 1974 gives legal protection for purchases between £100 and £30,000. Furthermore, the chargeback process -- followed by Visa, MasterCard and American Express -- offers extra protection for debit card transactions and purchases costing less than £100.
  • What to do if your card details are used by a fraudster: Credit card users are protected if they fall victim to fraudsters, regardless of whether their cards have been used in a shop, online or abroad. Thanks to provisions made under the Consumer Credit Act, cardholders should never lose out financially.
  • Which changes can made to your account: The guide provides details of the rules set out under the Lending Code. Credit card companies must follow these rules if they wish to make changes to your account -- such as altering your interest rate or credit limit.
  • Your right to clear information: Lenders are now required to provide certain key pieces of information in a set format to help consumers understand their products. Customers are also entitled to receive monthly statements and, as of 2012, an annual statement giving details of their expenditures and any charges incurred over the past 12 months.
  • What to do if you face financial difficulties: Consumers with financial problems are entitled to respectful and fair treatment. This should include the right to get help from a free independent debt-advice agency. Lenders should also provide 30 days of "breathing space" for customers who are in the process of working out a repayment plan with a debt-advice agency.
  • How to complain: The guide ensures customers know whom they should contact if they wish to complain about their credit cards companies -- and the speed of response they should expect. It also provides details on referring a complaint to the Financial Ombudsman Service for customers who are unhappy with their credit card company's response.

Where can you get the guide?
The advice guide will be distributed to Citizens Advice Bureaus throughout the month of May and can also be accessed via the UK Cards Association's website, where it is available as a free download.

See related: How to deal with debt collectors, UK consumers find credit cards useful -- but confusing

Published: 8 May 2012