Success in business means utilizing all available tools. Consumer credit card providers are quick to offer plastic to anyone old enough to buy a beer but the overuse of credit cards leads to debt-burdened customers and lawmakers who pass legislation to curb the practice.
Before you're ready to offer a consumer credit, you need to know the laws that regulate the practice to keep yourself on the right side of the law. Many federal laws deal with consumer credit management. By offering revolving credit accounts to regular customers, you build on service and loyalty. However, the terms used when establishing an account are restricted to protect the consumer from unfair credit practices. Arguably, the most important laws deal with:
- The way you share consumer credit information with other creditors.
- The way you establish your billing for credit customers.
- The methods you use to collect a debt.
- The equality factor you use in determining to whom you extend credit.
Know the consumer's rights to financial informationMake it a priority to understand the Truth in Lending Act, which enforces a consumer's right to certain details regarding their personal financial information on consumer credit with your company.
Regulation Z, an extensive set of qualifications further defining the Act. You are required to disclose your financing terms up-front.
Establish fair billing with all your customersThe Fair Credit Billing Act deals with your right to collect payment while protecting the rights of the consumer.
Fair Credit Billing Act. In addition, you are obliged to notify customers about their rights by mail periodically.
Get your money, but follow the lawCollecting a debt owed isn't a cut and dried matter. The law forbids you to use practices deemed abusive to consumers. In addition, consumer credit counseling agencies may contact you on behalf of a debtor to negotiate an amicable settlement. This may involve accepting less than you are owed in exchange for removing negative information from the consumer's credit reports and wiping the debt from your books.
Use caution when denying credit to anyoneConsumer credit card services and other businesses may not deny credit to an applicant based upon race or other discriminatory factors deemed unlawful. However, you may refuse to grant credit on legitimate credit rating standards or financial records.
strictly to the regulations set forth in the Equal Credit Opportunity Act (ECOA) when considering applicants for credit. If a disgruntled consumer sues you for discrimination, hire a good business defense attorney with experience in successfully defending clients against fraudulent ECOA claims.
- Stay abreast of constant changes in consumer credit law to get the most benefit from extending credit to your customers.
- Treat all credit applicants with respect and in a fair manner. By setting specific standards when approving credit, you can justify your decision later, if need be. Keep all rejected credit applications for one year.
- Encouraging customers to spend more than they can financially afford can lead to a default on their payment. Set reasonable credit limits.