chargeback, for the uninitiated, is a simple procedure by which someone calls his / her bank and requires a credit card transaction to be refunded. The bank is usually very flexible and refunds the transaction on the spot. This unusual generosity from the bank comes at the expense the merchant, who will not only lose the value of the original transaction, but will also be charged a fee for this chargeback. The aim of this article is to help online stores understand the reason of chargebacks, and how to avoid them.
Usually online transactions are more likely to be chargeback than their offline peers. There are many reasons for this, but the main reasons are the following:
1. Unsatisfied customer: Since the customer is not physically present to examine the product, he / she may feel misled in case the product received does not match his / her expectations. Delays in shipping can also lead to disgruntled customers and may potentially lead to chargebacks.
2. Billing Problems: It is very easy to mistakenly double-charge customers over the Internet. Clicking the "Checkout" button twice on the majority of websites might lead to double-charging a customer. Slow websites or websites using slow payment gateways can expect a lot of those double charges.
3. Customer forgetting about the transaction: Going to a shop and buying a product off the shelf is a memorable thing, as it involves dealing with other persons (usually sales people) and usually requires a fair share of the person's time. On the other hand, buying something off the Internet is not so memorable, as it is typically a fast process that does not involve paying with others. Customers not recognizing transactions on their credit card statement tend to call their bank and chargeback on the spot.
4. Fraud: If you have been long enough in the online business, then for sure you have experienced some fraudulent transactions on your system. The major people notice that their credit card was stolen at a later stage, so what they do is that they call their bank, and they cancel all fraudulent transactions. Unfortunately, almost all of these canceled transactions, however, were processed on legal online stores, like yours.
5. Customer not feeling obliged to honor the transaction: Some customers usually do not feel being bound to honor online transactions the same way they honor the offline ones, as the traditional form of approval, which is the signature, is not required. Now even though such customers are rare, they do exist, and they do chargeback, especially if the transaction was for a service or a non-physical product.
Now that we know the main reasons of chargebacks, let us examine the ways to prevent them:
1. Have a smooth refund policy: In a normal store, if an unsatisfied customer walks in and complains, he / she is usually given a refund. This should be the case in an online store. Issuing a refund not only makes your disgruntled customers satisfied, but it'll also make them trust you, and that's willing to make more transactions with you and forget about this one bad experience. Keep in mind however, that your refunds should be swift; promises in refunds will make you lose your customers' trust forever, and will risk you being charged after issuing the refund.
3. Include your phone number: You should ask your billing gateway to include your company's customer support number next to your transactions on your customer's credit card statement. In most cases, if the customer sees a transaction that he / she can not remember, then he / she will look for a phone number to contact the company where the transaction in question was processed. If there is no phone number next to the transaction, then the customer will immediately call the bank to chargeback. Note though, that some customers can be patient, and can lookup your phone number on the Internet based on the name of your company.
4. Prevent fraud: First and foremost you should use CVV (Credit Verification Value) for credit card authentication. AVS (Address Verification System) will potentially reduce the number of legitimate transactions that you can have because the customer can easily make mistakes when typing his / her address. Additionally, AVS only works in the US. The best thing to do is to ask for the address but not validate against it. You should also check if the shipping address is the same as the address on the credit card, if it's not, then you should investigate the transactions. Finally, locate the country where the transaction originated from, and if this country is different than the one on the credit card, then most likely it's a fraud.
5. Explain the legal obligation of an online transaction: You should, in your checkout page as well as in the order confirmation email, mention that an online transaction has the same legal obligation as its offline peer, and it has to be honored.
Chargebacks are and will always remain a nuisance that will never go, and since challenging a chargeback is almost always useless (as usually it costs more to recoup the money than the original's transaction value), you should start thinking about implementing the above techniques to avoid your transactions from being charged in the first place. Failing to do that may risk getting your business blacklisted and your merchant account suspended, as there is a limit on how many chargebacks you can have / month.