Chargebacks are a common concern for customers and businesses that accept credit card payments. They occur when a customer disputes a transaction with their credit card company, leading to a reversal of funds. At its core, this process serves to protect consumers from unauthorized charges and potentially fraudulent activities. However, it often happens that customers abuse the system, leading to a plethora of problems for the card issuer and the vendor.
In this guide, we are looking at the duration of a chargeback process and seeing how understanding all the factors that contribute to it can help businesses and individuals navigate the complexities of such disputes.
What are chargebacks?
The length of the chargeback process can vary significantly depending on various factors. That includes the reason for submission, the nature of the bank that issued the card, the credit card network, and the quality of the evidence submitted.
What factors affect the duration of the chargeback?
The Fair Credit Billing Act of 1974 mandates that cardholders have a minimum of 60 days to dispute illegitimate charges. However, the entire process can sometimes take a few or even up to 90 days from the time the dispute is initiated. There are several factors that can impact how long a chargeback takes to process. In the next section, we discuss the most important ones.
Type of chargeback and card network
The time it takes to resolve a chargeback depends on the underlying reason for its submission. Various factors come into play, with the nature of the issue being the primary determinant. That is, whether the chargeback is due to fraudulent or non-fraudulent activity.
Let’s take an instance where a chargeback arises due to fraudulent activity. This kind of chargeback could take much longer to resolve compared to a chargeback prompted by a simple processing error or a dispute related to the product or service in question being defective or of unsatisfactory quality.
Furthermore, the specific card networks associated with the transaction — such as Visa, Mastercard, or American Express — impose different rules and guidelines for various chargeback cases. This can either extend or expedite the overall resolution period, depending on the particulars of each individual case.
The choice of payment processor employed by the merchant is yet another factor that can impact the chargeback resolution process. This is because different payment processors have distinct protocols for managing chargebacks, which, in turn, leads to differing durations for resolving such disputes.
Each payment processor follows a set of internal procedures to handle chargebacks. Some might prioritize quicker resolution by streamlining their investigation and response mechanisms. Others might have a more intricate process that takes longer to navigate.
Moreover, the geographical location of the merchant can also influence the time it takes to process chargebacks. If the merchant and the buyer live in different countries, factors such as time zone differences, communication challenges, and variations in local law could extend the overall resolution timeline.
In more serious cases, such as those that involve legal entities, the evidence presented by both the merchant and the customer plays a pivotal role in determining the speed at which the chargeback dispute is ultimately resolved. Naturally, substantial and well-presented evidence has the potential to speed up the resolution process. On the other hand, inadequate or ambiguous evidence can inadvertently draw out the chargeback proceedings.
For cardholders seeking to support their case, a range of documents can be of great use. Those include receipts, invoices that outline the terms of the purchase, proof of delivery, records of communication, etc. This well-rounded compilation of evidence offers a comprehensive perspective on the transaction and can significantly enhance the chances of a favorable and prompt resolution.
Merchant Response Time
The merchant’s response time can also sway the chargeback time frame. Usually, merchants are obliged to adhere to the specific time frames and regulations dictated by individual card networks.
An immediate and well-constructed response, combined with precise and relevant details and documentation, has the potential to accelerate the resolution process. Moreover, it can help dispel uncertainties and expedite the process of evaluating the validity of the chargeback claim.
On the other hand, a delayed or inadequate response can inadvertently extend the time required for resolving the chargeback dispute. That, of course, erodes the customer’s confidence in the merchant as well.
If the merchant fails to supply the requisite evidence or clarification, the outcome could be severe. In certain cases, a lack of response or evidence might even result in the case being dismissed entirely. Naturally, that can cause additional inconvenience for both parties.
Tips for reducing chargeback duration
There are several things that customers and merchants can do to make the chargeback process go faster. For example, they can:
- Respond quickly to chargeback notifications: It is crucial for merchants to respond promptly to chargeback notifications to shorten the overall duration of the chargeback process. Time is of the essence, as we say. So, cardholders have specific chargeback time limits for filing disputes, and merchants have their own time limits to respond to these claims. By addressing chargebacks as soon as they come in, merchants increase the likelihood of a resolution in their favor and speed up the process;
- Provide compelling evidence: To minimize chargeback duration, it’s essential for merchants to compile and present comprehensive, compelling evidence that supports their case. That may include documents such as transaction records, delivery confirmations, and email correspondence with customers. Presenting this evidence in a clear and organized manner will streamline the process, helping resolve the dispute more swiftly and effectively;
- Work with a payment processor that offers chargeback protection: Partnering with a payment processor that offers chargeback protection services can help reduce chargeback durations by providing expert guidance throughout the process. Good payment processors have dedicated teams and tools to help merchants minimize chargebacks and navigate the complex ecosystem of disputes. By employing them, merchants can save time, resources, and potential revenue losses associated with lengthy chargeback processes.
The chargeback process is an essential mechanism within the financial industry that helps protect consumers against unauthorized or fraudulent transactions. Consequently, it is important to understand how long a chargeback takes, as such knowledge can assist merchants, cardholders, and banks in managing their resources and expectations.
While the chargeback process varies slightly depending on the specific circumstances, the overall time frame can be reasonably estimated. As a merchant or a cardholder, understanding these timelines enables informed decision-making and helps ensure efficient resolution of chargeback disputes.
FAQs about chargebacks
How long does a chargeback take?
The time frame for resolving a chargeback can vary depending on the credit card network and the specifics of the dispute. However, cardholders typically have 120 days from the transaction date to file a chargeback. After that, there are different time limits imposed on banks and merchants at each stage of the chargeback process.
How often are merchants successful in chargeback disputes?
The success rate for merchants in chargeback disputes can depend on several factors. Those include the strength of their evidence, adherence to credit card network rules, dispute management strategy, etc. Some merchants may win a significant percentage of their disputes, while others may face challenges in pursuing their cases successfully.
What is a chargeback fee?
A chargeback fee is a sum imposed by the acquiring bank and paid by the merchant in addition to refunded funds. The main reason for imposing such fees is to motivate merchants to take proactive measures to minimize the occurrence of excessive chargebacks in the first place.