What Is a Direct Dispute?

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DEFINITION
A direct dispute occurs when you contact a creditor or lender because you believe they’ve given the credit bureaus incorrect information about your account.

A direct dispute happens when you spot an error on your credit report and contact the creditor, issuer, or lender to get it cleared up. This error could be about payments you made on time that were reported as late, accounts that aren’t yours, inaccurate credit limits, and more.

Clearing errors on your credit report through direct disputes is one of the best things you can do for your financial health and credit score. Here’s a closer look at how direct disputes work.

Definition and Examples of a Direct Dispute

A direct dispute occurs when you contact a creditor or lender because you believe they’ve given the credit bureaus incorrect information about your account. The purpose of filing a direct dispute is to get errors removed from your credit report (and hopefully boost your score).

For example, suppose you review your credit report and see a note that you made a late payment on your Discover card. Your credit score has dropped a few points as a result.

You know you’ve made all your payments on time. So you contact Discover directly, providing proof that the payment wasn’t late. They then update the information in their system and notify the credit bureaus of the mistake.

How Does a Direct Dispute Work?

The Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) gives you the right to dispute inaccurate information on your credit report from credit card issuers, mortgage lenders, auto loan providers, debt collectors, and more.

You can file a direct dispute by contacting the company that provided the information, or you can send a letter to the credit bureau that’s reporting the error, which is called an indirect dispute.

Some common issues you can dispute directly with a credit or lender include: 

  • Accounts that aren’t yours (or anything else that looks like fraud or identity theft)
  • Inaccurate late payments, loan amounts, or credit limits
  • An account’s open or close date

You should review your credit report for errors at least once a year. You are entitled to receive free copies of your credit report once every 12 months at AnnualCreditReport.com.

How To File a Direct Dispute

Follow these steps to start the direct dispute process:

Contact the Company That Gave the Misinformation to the Credit Bureaus

The first step is to contact your lender, creditor, or whichever company reported the false information. Tell them about the error you found on your credit report, provide proof of documentation, and ask them to correct it.

Most companies will ask you to submit your direct dispute either electronically or in writing. If you don’t see how to start the process, give the company a call. At the very least, a customer representative can tell you where to file your dispute and what supporting documents you need to include.

Not sure what to say in your direct dispute letter? Use the FTC’s disputing letter template as a guide.

Wait for Them To Conduct an Investigation

Companies typically have 30 days to investigate direct disputes, although it can be extended to 45 days if they receive additional information during that period. During this time, they’ll review all the information you provided against what they have in the system.

The exact length of time it takes to resolve a direct dispute depends on the complexity of the situation. If it’s something simple—such as when an on-time payment is reported as late—the company can simply review the data in their system and verify the bill was paid on time. But in cases of bigger investigations, it may take the full month.

Companies do not have to investigate a direct dispute if it’s found to be “frivolous” or “irrelevant.” 

Frivolous or irrelevant disputes can happen if:

  • You didn’t provide sufficient information to investigate the direct dispute, or
  • You submitted “substantially similar” information to a previous dispute the furnisher has already investigated.

The Company Notifies You of Their Decision

Federal law mandates that a company must notify you within five business days of reaching a direct dispute decision. When that time comes, three things will happen:

  1. They’ll say you were right—that the information was found in error. They’ll notify all three credit bureaus to have it corrected.
  2. They’ll say the information was found to be correct, so it’s staying on your credit report as is.
  3. They’ll say your direct dispute was found to be “frivolous” or “irrelevant,” along with next steps to take if you want to submit a new dispute.

If a creditor decides the information on your report is accurate, you can request to have a “consumer statement” added to your profile by contacting the credit bureaus. Potential creditors will see this statement when they access and review your information.

Direct Dispute vs. Indirect Dispute

Direct and indirect disputes are both ways to remove errors from your credit reports, but there are some differences.

Direct Dispute Indirect Dispute
You file a dispute with the lender or creditor (also known as the “furnisher”) that made the error. You file a dispute with the credit bureau that reported the error.
The process to file a direct dispute varies by company, so it’s best to call your lender first. There are formal processes in place for filing an indirect dispute online, by mail, or by phone with all three credit bureaus.

With a direct dispute, you get the errors removed by contacting your creditor or lender directly.  With an indirect dispute, you contact the credit bureau and let them take it from there.

Direct disputes can be more effective than indirect disputes because you’re going straight to the source. Your lender is the one who receives your payments, knows your balance, and has the paperwork needed to verify and  update a claim. So when you go straight to them, they can quickly rectify the situation.

Filing an indirect dispute with your credit reporting agency, although helpful, can take longer and require more information on your part because they’re essentially a middle-person. It’s often best to go to your lender or creditor first, then on to the credit agency if things don’t get resolved.

Key Takeaways

  • A direct dispute happens when you submit a request with a creditor or lender to review and remove inaccurate information from your credit report.
  • A direct dispute is the best course of action to take if you spot an error on your credit report.
  • A direct dispute is different from an indirect dispute because you work directly with the furnisher that gave the information, rather than working with the credit bureau.
  • Companies typically have 30 days to investigate direct disputes and five days to notify you of their decision once it’s reached.

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Article Sources

  1. Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. “​​CFPB Consumer Laws and Regulations,” Page 84.

  2. U.S. Office of the Comptroller of the Currency. “Credit Disputes: There Is Incorrect Information on My Credit Report.”

  3. AnnualCreditReport.com. “All About Credit Report.”

  4. Office of Law Revision Counsel United States Code. “15 USC 1681i: Procedure in Case of Disputed Accuracy.”

  5. U.S. Office of the Comptroller of the Currency. “Credit Disputes: Does a Furnisher Have To Investigate All Direct Disputes To Credit Report Information?”

  6. U.S. Office of the Comptroller of the Currency. “Credit Disputes: I Disputed Adverse Credit Information Appearing on My Credit Report With the Furnisher."