The Dispute Process

Learn more about retrievals (inquiry on a transaction), disputes (consumer complaint), authorizations, the dispute life cycle, what it means to accept a dispute, and the dispute decision to help you protect your shop. Know where to find details of common dispute reason codes, what is required to overturn them, how to respond, and what compelling evidence to supply.


What is a Retrieval?

A retrieval is an inquiry on a transaction from the cardholder or the issuing bank. A retrieval request as an opportunity to stop a dispute before it's filed, either by issuing a refund or by providing enough information to satisfy the inquiry.

A retrieval has no financial impact, as it is an inquiry for further information. If the retrieval is not satisfied, it can result in a dispute, where there is a financial impact.

Failure to respond to a retrieval by the deadline will likely result in an unwinnable dispute.

Why do retrievals occur?

Retrievals may occur when:

  • The cardholder does not remember making the purchase

  • The cardholder does not recognize the business name appearing on their statement

  • The amount the cardholder sees does not match the agreed-upon amount


What is a Dispute?

A dispute is a consumer complaint related to a credit or debit card purchase. Disputes are a service provided by the cardholder's bank. A cardholder can initiate a dispute under various reason codes within the bank's allotted time frame (up to 180 days after services rendered). In some cases, the bank itself may initiate. Common dispute reasons are unauthorized purchase, merchandise/services not rendered, credit not processed, merchandise/service not as described, etc.

All card transactions can be disputed, including EMV, card-present, card-not-present, etc. There is no guaranteed method to avoid disputes completely, but there are ways to mitigate your risk exposure.

When responding to a dispute, the business that charged the card (you), must provide compelling evidence to the cardholder's bank, showing that the agreed-upon service/product was provided and/or that the agreed-upon parameters for requesting a refund were not followed. The more compelling evidence you provide for your case, the better.

If you do not submit evidence by the deadline, the cardholder will win the dispute and keep the funds. The cardholder’s banks will take the no response as an indication that you accept the dispute.

Debit card vs. Credit card Disputes

Many consumers use credit and debit cards interchangeably. There are a lot of similarities between the two but they each offer different levels of fraud liability.

For credit cards, the funds technically belong to the bank, not to the cardholder. Whereas with a debit card, the funds exist in the cardholder’s account, rather than in a line of credit issued by the bank.


Where do disputes stem from?

Disputes stem from merchant errors, fraud, and friendly fraud.

Merchant Errors

These are missteps from a business. Some of the most common merchant errors are:

  • Failing to clarify return/refund policy

  • Lack of customer service and/or customer communication

  • Not follow up on customer inquiries + complaints

  • Not shipping item(s) within the agreed-upon time frame

  • Listing inaccurate product description

  • Unclear prices or charging more than the agreed-upon amount

  • Inaccurate billing descriptor

  • Not adhering to card network regulations

  • Duplicate charges in error

Fraud

Fraud occurs when a fraudster obtains the cardholder's information to complete fraudulent transactions.

Friendly Fraud

Friendly fraud is when a legitimate cardholder uses their own card, address, and name to make purchases with the intention to later dispute the charge.

The two main types of friendly fraud are accidental dispute abuse and intentional dispute abuse.

  1. Accidental dispute abuse occurs when the cardholder does not recognize the charge on their statement. Family charges fall under this type when a relative of the cardholder has access to the cardholder's payment information and makes a purchase without their knowledge.

  2. Intentional dispute abuse occurs when the cardholder intentionally abuses the dispute system as a way for personal gain. This may be due to buyer's remorse, waiting too long for an item, or the cardholder disputes as many transactions as they can as a way to lower their debt.

Friendly Fraud is extremely difficult to identify and prevent as it is a post-transactional threat, meaning there is no way of knowing if a transaction will result in a dispute. No one can predict a cardholder's intention.

The best practice is to collect as much information as possible at the time of creating the invoice/estimate, clearly communicate shipping times and/or billing terms, require the cardholder to agree to the terms of service, ship only to verified billing addresses, and require a signature upon delivery of goods.


Dispute Life Cycle

  1. There is a cardholder inquiry: The cardholder identifies a transaction that is either suspicious/not recognized or if a product/service is not rendered or yet received. The cardholder then contacts their issuing bank to file a claim.

  2. The issuing bank reviews the claim of the cardholder: the issuer reviews the details surrounding the transaction.

  3. The issuing bank files a dispute. The money has been moved and the cardholder is given a provisional credit paid by the business (you). The bank sets the date when compelling evidence is due.

  4. The business makes the decision to either accept or fight the dispute.

    • Reasons to accept dispute:

      • You agree funds are due to the cardholder

        • True duplicate

        • A refund was due but not given

        • etc.

      • Services/products not rendered

    • If fighting the dispute, now is the time to gather all compelling evidence and submit it to Shopmonkey by the deadline.

      • This deadline cannot be moved/adjusted.

  5. Shopmonkey responds to the dispute. We will package the documents and details you provide and respond to the issuing bank on your behalf.

  6. The issuing bank reviews the case. The issuer reviews all of the evidence and renders a decision.


The transaction was authorized. How could this be disputed?

An authorization on a transaction/sale means that the bank verified the funds you are requesting are available on the card at that moment in time. The bank is authorizing the removal of the requested funds. An authorization is valid for 7 days on a debit card and up to 30 days on a credit card.

An authorization does not mean that the transaction/sale will not be disputed at a later time OR that the individual placing the order is the actual cardholder.


Receiving a Dispute Notification

Disputes are generated 24/7, 365 and the notifications you receive are directly from Shopmonkey. We receive notifications, review them and send out notifications individually. The withdrawal of funds for the disputed amount along with a $15.00 dispute fee is automated as this is an industry standard.

Key information:

  • Ensure Shopmonkey has the correct POC for dispute email notifications

  • Dispute window is 180 days after services are rendered.

  • Dispute responses (compelling evidence) max out at 5MB - no exceptions.

  • Dispute deadline is set by the cardholder’s bank - it will not get extended.

  • Cardholder’s bank can take 45-60 days to render a decision on the case.

  • Send a response to: disputes@shopmonkey.io

What do I do after I receive a dispute notification?

Do not issue a refund. The issuing bank has already given a temporary credit while this transaction completes the dispute process.

Gather all compelling evidence pertaining to the transaction.

  • Provide clear and legible documentation

  • Keep evidence relevant and to the point. A long introduction about your product or company, complaint about the customer, or the unfairness of the dispute isn’t going to make your responses more compelling. Instead, provide only the facts surrounding the original purchase, using a neutral and professional tone.

  • You will only receive one opportunity to submit a rebuttal. Once a response is submitted, it is submitted to the cardholder's issuing bank for review and no additional documents can be provided.

  • The evidence you submit to Shopmonkey should be appropriate to the specific dispute. For example a response to a dispute with the reason “product not received” should have evidence supplied that includes shipping//tracking information or evidence that customer pick-up occurred.

Compelling Evidence Examples

  • Details on the timeline of events

  • Signed invoices/receipts

  • All customer communication

    • Be aware that email correspondence or texts with a customer don’t verify their identity. If you’re going to submit these, make sure to include only the relevant information (for example, if you’re going to include a long email thread, redact any text that is not relevant).

  • Shipment tracking numbers and delivery confirmation (proof of delivery), including full shipping address

    • If your customer provides a “Ship To” name that differs from their own (for example, a gift purchase), be prepared to provide documentation explaining why they're different

    • Card issuers will not follow links or lookup tracking numbers, you must provide screenshots

  • Copy of your terms of service and refund policy

    • It's critical to provide proof that your customer agreed to and understood your terms of service at time of sale

Supplying Dispute Evidence

  • Only PDF, JPEG, or PNG file types are accepted

  • Do not send audio or video files because the card issuer evaluating the dispute won’t take action on these.

  • The combined file size cannot be more than 5MB, no exceptions.

If you are able to make contact with the customer and come to an agreement that the dispute is to be dropped, you must obtain written communication from the customer or the customer's issuing bank stating they have dropped the dispute and send it to us by the deadline.

Once you supply us with the compelling evidence, we will package and respond to the dispute on your behalf. Shopmonkey can only respond to disputes with the information and documentation you supply.


Accepting a dispute

You can choose to accept a dispute. Accepting a dispute is not an admission of wrongdoing, it is stating that you agree with the cardholder that a refund is due.

If you decide to accept the dispute, please let us know, so we can gather details and close the case.


Dispute Decision

The customer’s bank can take 45-60 days to render a decision on the case. We will provide you with a decision update as soon as we receive one.

Win: The dispute was resolved in your favor by the cardholder's bank or credit card company, meaning the disputed amount and dispute fee will be returned to you.

Lose: The dispute was NOT resolved in your business’s favor, meaning the dispute amount and dispute fee will not be returned to you. If you want to continue pursuing the transaction, you can - outside of Shopmonkey; we suggest asking your legal representation for guidance on your options

The cardholder's bank makes the decision on the disputes. Shopmonkey and our processor have no way to affect the decision beyond submitting the evidence you provide. We do not receive any feedback from the cardholder's bank on how the decision was reached.


Excessive Disputes

As part of your agreement with card networks, you must keep dispute ratios at acceptable levels. If the thresholds are exceeded (dictated by each network <Visa, Mastercard, Discover, AMEX>) they will place you into one of their monitoring programs. These programs can lead to fines and fees until you reduce your dispute levels.

Dispute activity is calculated by the number of disputes received, the final outcome of the dispute has no impact on your final numbers. The networks are ultimately looking to see what you’re doing to prevent disputes in the first place, so dispute prevention is critical. Anything over 1% is considered excessive and will be visible to card networks.


Common Dispute Reason Codes

Dispute reason codes describe the account owner's reason for filing a dispute. There are various reason codes in which a cardholder can file a dispute claim. For updated, current information on dispute reason codes, check out Stripe's Dispute Categories Page.

Select each dispute category type to learn more category details, how to respond, and evidence that can be submitted. After selecting a dispute category type, use the "Evidence you can submit for" drop-down menu to view appropriate evidence that can be submitted for a physical product, digital product or service, and offline service.

Credit not processed

The customer claims that the purchased product was returned or the transaction was otherwise canceled, but you haven’t yet provided a refund/credit.

Prevention tips:

  • Process qualified refunds as soon as possible and notify the cardholder

  • Share the refund policy with the cardholder before completing the transaction

Duplicate

The customer claims they were charged multiple times for the same product or service.

Prevention tips:

  • Refund any duplicate charges immediately and notify the cardholder

  • Review and balance end-of-day sales

Fraudulent

This is the most common reason for a dispute and happens when a cardholder claims that they didn’t authorize the transaction. This reason code is typically used when a card was lost or stolen and used to make a fraudulent purchase. It can also happen if the cardholder doesn’t recognize the payment as it appears on the billing statement from their card issuer.

Prevention tips:

  • Obtain the cardholder's signature on the pickup

  • A copy of identification presented by the cardholder

  • Details of identification presented by the cardholder

Product not received

The customer claims they did not receive the product(s) or services purchased.

Prevention tips:

  • Adhere to the promised delivery date and work completion date.

  • Immediately advise customers of unforeseen delays (out of stock, shipping delays, etc.) and offer a refund if they do not want to wait.

  • Accurately describe the services that will be performed, including the availability window.

  • Do not charge the cardholder's card until after the product has been shipped

  • Provide the cardholder with the tracking number of shipped items and retain the delivery confirmation. Consider requiring a signature for high-priced items.

  • If the item is picked up in-store, verify the cardholder identification card or driver's license and obtain a signature to verify the pickup.

Product unacceptable

The customer claims that the product or service was received but was defective, damaged, or not as described.

Prevention tips:

  • Immediately fulfill all valid requests for replacements or refunds

  • Double-check orders to ensure the correct item is shipped

  • Package item(s) carefully to avoid damage during shipment

  • Accurately describe items being sold and display accurate images

  • Never sell counterfeit products

  • Accept returns and issue refunds when applicable

Unrecognized

The customer doesn't recognize the payment appearing on their card statement.

Prevention tips:

  • Obtain authorization on the day of the transaction

  • Ensure accurate business name in statement descriptor

  • Obtain secondary validation (cardholder signature, card imprint, etc.)

  • Do not override declined transactions

    • Do not split transactions

    • Do not excessively run card

    • Obtain a different form of payment after 2 declines within a 24-hour period


Head back to Best Practices for Accepting Card Payments for more information.

We recommend that you read through all three linked articles as they will help you better understand card payments through Shopmonkey Payments.


We are here to help! Feel free to reach out to the Risk Department at risk@shopmonkey.io and the Dispute Team at disputes@shopmonkey.io.

*We provide integrated payments - we do not provide business advice or legal advice.

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