A Contractor Made Unauthorized Charges On My Credit Card

Replacing the flooring in his house, Scott authorized the contractor to charge 30 percent of the estimated cost as a down payment. To his dismay, the contractor rang up the card for the full amount before the work was done, then continued to charge the card when he needed more materials.

Scott wants you to take a look at his story and give you some advice:

Is it legal for a flooring contractor to make charges to my credit card that I did not specifically authorize? Here’s a description of the circumstances.

Earlier this year I contracted with a local company to replace all of the flooring in our home, which we were putting up for sale. The flooring company’s contract required a 30% down payment, and 70% on completion of the work. I used my MasterCard over the phone with them to make the down payment.

About three weeks later the company began installing the hardwood, tile, and vinyl floors. What I found surprising was that this company used my charge account to pay themselves the remaining 70% a week before the flooring was completely installed.

They did not ask me for permission to use my card, or even notify me in advance.

During the flooring installation, they requested materials that were not included in the initial estimate. I agreed to those materials. A few days after that they charged those materials to my MasterCard, again without my approval or notification.

The way I found out about these charges was that they later mailed the invoices marked “Paid in full”, including the credit card receipts. When I complained about this, the co-owner of the company seemed unconcerned and said that her clerical staffer had probably forgotten to call.

As I see it, this behavior deprived me of the option of choosing the form of payment. It deprived me of the ability to determine whether the work had been completed under the contract prior to final payment. In fact, it was not.

It was also inconvenient, because I had several other improvements being made to the home at that time and needed to carefully manage my credit card balances.

So my questions are, 1) was the flooring contractor’s use of my MasterCard unlawful? And 2) Was this a misuse of the agreement that a retail company makes with MasterCard when arranging to accept their card?

I’ve had no luck finding this information online so far, and am not even getting useful advice from mastercard.com. Their answer: “Open a dispute via your card issuer.”

Have you handled credit card disputes with contractors in the past? What would you do in Scott’s situation?