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February 2,2009

  • Credit Card Disputes (101), Pt.4
     – The larger picture.


    In two parallel but different worlds, to provide some substance, we have results to weigh as evidence. In Part 1 of this series (beginning with the news story entitled: "Haggling for Dollars"), a high-dollar credit card case was reported -- $130,000 worth of credit card charges for one transaction. That case was filed as a ‘Billing Error'. The outcome was having the credit card charge reduced to $46,000 and still being forced to accept $36,000 of ‘un-needed stuff'.

    In the other world, a different person also filed a credit card dispute against the same merchant for over $12,000 and got all the money back. There were many similarities in the two cases; partial shipments, way-delayed other shipments, etc. But, in this second case, the credit card holder filed the dispute as "unauthorized transactions".

    On the other hand, we must remember that merchants aren't always the ‘bad guys' in disputes. We don't have any statistics indicating who's wrong the most and need to realize that both parties lose in the process. We're not given the reasons for the unmet expectations or our two consumers. Maybe they were beyond everyone's control. What we do know is that this particular merchant was nearly driven into financial ruin over this $142,000 revenue being tied up over all those months during the long and drawn out disputes. So, one problem that still looms in our dispute process is how long it can take. Most people opt for a shorter time limit...say, like 30 days.

    Right now, these cases can take as long as 270 days. Most cases are resolved much sooner than that with the consumer and merchant working out an agreement. When necessary, the next level involves the banks of both parties and usually, of course, takes longer. The third and, generally the last level is called ‘Arbitration'. This is a major step and involves the credit card associations (like VISA and MasterCard). These kinds of cases are rare and only occur for 1 out of every 100 disputes. Be prepared, just in case.

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