Author: jnladmin

Do you need a contract?

Do you need a contract?

In Oregon, most verbal contracts are binding. Does that mean that you don’t need a written contract1? I’d venture to say that if you are engaged in a business deal or arrangement with another person or business then you should have a contract that outlines the terms of your agreement.

You can think of a written contract as insurance. If all goes well you might feel you didn’t need it, but if something goes wrong then the contract is like your insurance. A well written contract will document all material terms of your agreement, including price, scope, payment arrangements, default, remedies, etc.

What does this mean for you? There are many situations that you have likely heard of that can arise to cause a contract dispute. Often times one party is not satisfied with the work that the other party did, or unhappy because the other party did not do the work at all.  Another common dispute between parties is when one party does the work that was agreed to and sends a bill, but does not receive payment at all, or at least not for several months or without bickering about the amount of the bill.  What do you do in situations like these?

If you have a written contract then ideally you can look at your contract to determine your options.  A well written contract will document what to do for payment if one party doesn’t complete the work or it will detail what happens if payment is submitted late, or a bill is not paid at all; or the contract might document whether a late fee or interest can be assessed  and if so, then when?

While the fact of having the contract might not resolve your dispute or compel the other party to do what they agreed to do when they signed the contract, it at least is written documentation of the intent of the parties when you first entered into agreement and can potentially help you enforce your contractual rights and remedies should you need to consult an attorney and/or take legal action.  While anyone can write a contract, it’s probably a good idea to consult with an attorney who is experienced in the field to assist you with your contract.

Ultimately you might feel that you do not need a contract because “a man is good for his word”, you “shook on it”, or you are dealing with family or friends.  These are all reasons you might feel inclined to keep things informal.  However, even family and friends can disagree, forget what they agreed to, or change their minds. It doesn’t hurt to have your “insurance” just in case.

The information and materials provided in this article have been prepared for informational purposes only and do not constitute legal advice and do not constitute an attorney-client relationship between you and this law firm. If you believe you have a legal case or claim, you should contact an attorney promptly; strict time limitations may apply to your case or claim.

What is consumer law?

What is consumer law?

If I had a penny for every time someone asked me “what is consumer law?” I wouldn’t be rich, but I’d sure have a lot of pennies.

Consumer law is the label we’ve given the area of law that protects people like you and me – consumers – by imposing legal requirements designed to protect us from a variety of abuses, including unfair debt collection practices, unfair lending practices and fraud.

What is a consumer?  A consumer is someone who purchases items, such as a car, TV, couch, or even a pencil sharpener, and uses it for personal and/or household use.  This means that you are not labeled as a consumer when you buy these same or similar items for your business.

There are many situations that would be considered a potential consumer law claim:

Have you ever applied for credit and then at the very end of the application, or even after you accept the terms, you find out about hidden fees that weren’t disclosed to you before you applied?  Or perhaps you have been harassed by debt collectors who are trying to collect money from you. It could be that you told a debt collector not to contact you anymore, and yet they continue to do so. You might have applied for credit based on promises that were made in the advertisements, only to find out that what was promised is not available to you. Do you feel that you were discriminated against when you applied for credit based on your race, gender or where you live?  Maybe you applied for credit but discovered inaccurate delinquencies on your credit report so you want to contact the credit bureaus and creditors to correct the inaccurate reporting.  Did you purchase a vehicle but later learned that the dealer/seller failed to tell you about hidden defects in the car? You might have been the victim of falling for a scam or identity theft and are now in need of help.

This article is not intended to be an exhaustive list of the scenarios that could be consumer law; it is merely offered to provide examples and to create a better picture for you of what consumer law really is.  If you think you have a consumer law claim, you should contact an attorney immediately.

What laws apply? There are multiple federal regulations that have been implemented to protect consumers and to give consumers legal rights when they have been wronged.  In some states, there are even state level regulations that offer the same, and often times more, protections for consumers. You should contact an attorney who is licensed in the state where you live if you think you have a consumer law claim.  If you are an Oregon resident, like me, you are protected by the many federal regulations, as well as Oregon’s Unlawful Trade Practices Act, which was implemented to protect consumers from fraud.

What are federal consumer protection laws?

There are many federal consumer protection laws.  To name a few of the most common laws please see the list below, but keep in mind that there are other laws out there to protect consumers:

     –  Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) – dictates what a third-party debt collector can and cannot do when attempting to collect a debt from you.

     –  Unfair, Deceptive, or Abusive Acts and Practices (UDAAP) – to ensure that advertising and marketing from lenders is not misleading to consumers.

     –  Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) – dictates how a credit reporting agency can use your information to ensure that your credit reporting is accurate.

     –  Truth in Lending Act (TILA) – dictates how businesses and creditors treat a consumer in lending, and what information must be provided to a consumer regarding the cost         of credit.

     –  Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA) – creates restrictions for telephone solicitations and for the use of auto dialer systems.

The information and materials provided in this article have been prepared for informational purposes only and do not constitute legal advice and do not constitute an attorney-client relationship between you and this law firm. If you believe you have a legal case or claim, you should contact an attorney promptly; strict time limitations may apply to your case or claim.

Billing Error Disputes

Billing Error Disputes

It’s important to review your monthly bank and/or credit card statements soon after receiving them. You might discover errors in that statement. The Fair Credit Billing Act offers protections to consumers like you, in the event that you notice an error in your statement and take appropriate action to correct the error within the designated period of time. This article will provide information for how to assert a billing error dispute when you notice an error on your monthly statement.

What is a billing error dispute?

A billing error could include many different situations, such as the charge for a return that remains on your statement, a charge for an item that you did not receive, double charge for an item that you purchased, an amount that is different than what you authorized or paid, or perhaps even a transaction that you did not authorize at all[1]. These are just a few examples of a billing error, but there could be other scenarios that might arise, so if you believe you have identified an error in your billing statement, you might consider asserting a billing error dispute with your creditor.

How do you assert a billing error dispute?

You have 60 days within the time when the statement with the error was mailed to you, or made available to you online. What this means, is that within 60 days you must (1) send a written letter or note to the creditor that (2) identifies your name and account number and (3) that describes what you believe is incorrect, including date and amount of the error.

Remember to send your letter to the address that is designated on your statement for sending “billing inquiries.” Do not send your letter to the same address where you send payments.

Helpful Tip: Send your notice by certified mail. You will receive a postcard back confirming the creditor received the billing error dispute notice and indicating the date when it was received.

Note, if you notice the error on your statement but do not send notice to the creditor before that 60 day window expires, then while your creditor may choose to honor your dispute as a courtesy to you, they will not be under a legal duty to respond to your billing error dispute, unless it also constitutes some other type of legal dispute that is not discussed in this article.

What are the legal requirements of the creditor?

The creditor must send you a letter that acknowledges receipt of your billing error dispute within 30 days of receipt of your dispute. The creditor is not required to have a response to your dispute at this time, because the regulation gives them two full billing cycles (but not longer than 90 days) to investigate your dispute.

The creditor is required to conduct an investigation to determine whether there was an error, or not. This investigation must be completed and a written explanation of the creditor’s decision must be sent to you within two full billing cycles (but not more than 90 days).

In other words, if the creditor determines that an error did occur, then they must send you a letter to let you know their conclusion and they must fix the error. If the creditor determines that an error did not occur or that a different error occurred, then they must send you a written explanation along with documentation that supports their conclusion.

What if the creditor does not meet these requirements?

If a creditor fails to comply with the legal requirements for handling a billing error dispute then you are not out of luck. There are legal remedies available to you in that situation.  You may be entitled to damages pursuant to the Fair Credit Billing Act.  In addition, you may be able to file a claim against the creditor with the Federal Trade Commission and/or State Attorney General.

What are your rights after you send a billing error dispute?

–  You are not responsible to pay the disputed portion of your bill while the dispute is pending.  The creditor cannot try to collect payment for the disputed portion of your bill from you during this time.

–  The creditor is prohibited from providing a negative credit reporting as a result of your failure to pay the disputed portion of the bill during the dispute period.

–  The creditor is prohibited from accelerating payment of your debt for the disputed portion of the bill.

–  The creditor is not able to assess late fees, interest charges, penalty fees, etc. for the unpaid disputed portion of your bill during the dispute period.

Remember that while you are allowed to not pay the disputed portion of your bill, you are still obligated to pay the portion of the bill that you do not dispute. The restrictions on a creditor that were explained regarding the disputed portion do not apply to undisputed portions.

Other information:

If the creditor determines that you are responsible for payment of the disputed portion then they must notify you by writing that they believe no error occurred. In that situation, you will be obligated to pay the amount that was previously disputed. In their letter to you, the creditor must tell you when your payment is due and the amount that is now due.

If you have a dispute about the quality of the goods or services that you received, these are not billing error disputes.  Other remedies and procedures may apply, but they are not covered by this article.

The information and materials provided in this article have been prepared for informational purposes only and do not constitute legal advice and do not constitute an attorney-client relationship between you and this law firm. If you believe you have a legal case or claim, you should contact an attorney promptly; strict time limitations may apply to your case or claim.


[1] Depending on the facts surrounding your dispute, there may be other legal claims or disputes available to you. If you have questions or concerns you can contact an attorney for help.