Author: larry.singer

How to Avoid Chargebacks: Strategies for High-Risk Businesses

How to Avoid Chargebacks: Strategies for High-Risk Businesses

One of the primary reasons an industry is defined as high-risk is because it has a disproportionate rate of chargebacks. Chargebacks are a problem for any merchant, but high-risk online businesses are far more likely to experience a higher rate of payment disputes than other ecommerce sellers.

A chargeback, or payment dispute, happens when a customer reports a problem with a transaction to his or her card issuer and requests a refund. Without strong proactive defenses against chargebacks, it’s all too easy for a high-risk merchant to go out of business. Chargebacks can result in a merchant losing their ability to accept credit cards. Other issues include the time associated with managing disputes, the impact to a business’s financial rating, potential fines and penalties, and the loss of both products and money. Here’s how to prevent the most common causes of chargebacks.

Chargeback Basics

When a merchant receives notice that a payment dispute has been opened, he or she has two choices: accept the chargeback, or prove that the transaction was legitimate.

Depending on the reason for the chargeback, the merchant will have to provide evidence such as a screen capture of the store’s website showing shipping details and refund policies, email/web site records of the sale, forms detailing the sale process and more. If the merchant’s evidence is accepted, the cardholder’s dispute will be rejected and the transaction will then be resubmitted to the customer’s payment card. But the merchant still has to pay the fees associated with the chargeback.

Fees start mounting the moment the chargeback process begins, from retrieval fees to investigate the dispute and a chargeback fee if the customer’s claim is ultimately found to be true.The typical retrieval fee is $5-15 per incident and an average chargeback fee is between $20-$50 – but the costs can be higher for high-risk businesses. If the bank ultimately sides with the customer, but the merchant wishes to pursue the case, there will be additional filing fees of several hundred dollars or more. Meanwhile, the money in dispute is withheld from the merchant’s account until the matter is settled – typically 60-75 days but it can be much longer.

And if a business experiences chargebacks that exceed 1% of its total sales, banks providing payment services can levy thousands of dollars in fines and penalties, as well as terminate the merchant’s ability to accept payment cards and/or close the merchant’s account. For most merchants, this means going out of business.

What Causes Chargebacks?

The typical reason for a chargeback is customer dissatisfaction – for reasons ranging from non-receipt of an order to the claims that the product received wasn’t as advertised, or was damaged in shipping. Unresponsive customer service and unexplained shipping delays may also convince customers to file a chargeback.

Misunderstandings play a part too. Customers may also, in good faith, report a fraudulent charge if they don’t recognize the business name associated with the charge. Or a customer may think he or she has been double-billed if an authorization hold and an actual charge appear on the same statement. Ecommerce sales may also be affected by technical glitches and user errors, such as pushing “buy” buttons multiple times.

Some chargebacks are related to fraud. A customers’ payment card may be used without proper authorization, or reoccurring charges may not have been clearly explained. Customers may also deliberately commit fraud by ordering products and filing chargebacks simply in order to get a refund – and can often keep the product as well. This is known as “friendly” or “first-person” fraud.

Defending Against Chargebacks

High-risk merchants can help shield their online business from legitimate chargebacks with good communication, which includes:

  • Accurately describing products
  • Clearly explaining their refund policy
  • Detailing any recurring charges
  • Abiding by promised shipping times
  • Defining billing details (such as what company name will appear on the invoice)
  • A well-designed website that’s easy to navigate
  • Excellent customer outreach and support

Most customers will try to sort out the problem with the merchant before resorting to a chargeback. If a business is responsive and makes a real effort to resolve the problem, many chargebacks can be avoided. Unfortunately, though, a merchant can do everything right and still be a victim of friendly fraud, when customers falsely claim that they didn’t order the product, or it was never received/doesn’t live up to expectations.

Chargeback protection services

High-risk merchants should look for payment processors that offer robust chargeback protection services. These services utilize data-driven intelligence, collaboration with the financial industry, and proven risk-reduction tactics to proactively defend against chargebacks.

T1 Payments, a leading provider of payment processing services to high-risk merchants, works with two chargeback protection solution services – Ethoca and Verifi – to reduce customer’s exposure to both genuine fraud and the “false declines” that can occur when payments are incorrectly declined due to a perceived risk of fraud.

To find out more about T1 Payment’s services for high-risk online merchants please visit t1payments.com or call 866-518-2216.

Merchants: Get Ready Now for Black Friday/Cyber Monday Sales

Merchants: Get Ready Now for Black Friday/Cyber Monday Sales

No one has to tell merchants that the days following Thanksgiving are among the busiest – and most profitable of the year. But, for online business, the big question is how to prepare for increased traffic, sales, snafus – and scams.

Increase Inventory

In America alone, online shopping is expected to break records again this year, spending a total of $124.1 billion over the November-December holiday shopping season, a 14.8 percent jump from last year. Divided by the total number of U.S. internet users, that translates into roughly $423 in spending per online shopper, according to Adobe Analytics.

The five-days between Thanksgiving and Cyber Monday will drive $23.4 billion worth of online sales, with Cyber Monday being the biggest shopping day ($7.8 billion), followed by Black Friday ($5.9 billion) and Thanksgiving weekend ($3.3 billion).

Figuring out how much inventory to have on hand can be difficult. Look at last year’s sales as a predictor and consider increasing inventory levels a bit higher if your business’ sales trends indicate the need to do so. New merchants can look at their average sales per day during the busiest months as a guide. Shopify suggests merchants plan for 3.6x increase in sales on Black Friday and 3.1x on Cyber Monday (based on sales for a normal November day), and offers this formula

  • What is my average amount of sales per day during November?
  • How much stock would I need to meet that demand?
  • What is four times that number?

Remember, inventory can always be sold later (assuming it’s not perishable), but if you’re sold out you’ve lost those sales.

Marketing Magic

Merchants should make sure that shoppers know what deals are on offer. It seems obvious, but marketing can get forgotten in the busy run-up to the holidays. Consider starting sales early for customers on your email list, or social followers – offer exclusive “early access” deals. Look into spending a bit on boosted posts and social ads – but only if social media does a good job of driving sales for your business. Consider reaching out to bloggers, influencers and news sites that appeal to your customers, to see if they are running sales roundup articles. Think about how you can get the word out to the people who are most likely to purchase from you.

Check Fraud Filters

The best Payment Processors offer solutions to merchants that help prevent cybercrime such as fraud and mitigate the risk of chargebacks. This includes fraud scrubbing technology, which uses rule-based filtering to quickly spot and stop potentially problematic transactions. The right fraud scrubbing solution, properly configured, will block the majority of fraudulent transactions in real time, and enable you to scrutinize potentially problematic activity to determine whether it is genuine or fraudulent.

Fraud filters typically look for exceptionally large orders and rapid-repeat transactions. Transaction velocity checking filters may need to be adjusted to reflect expected increased activity at certain times of the year. Merchants who have adjusted their fraud scrubbing filters may want to check their custom configurations to help ensure that they reflect the needs of a busy shopping season. Talk to your Payment Provider to determine whether a fully-automated solution is the best choice for your business, or what level of customization will best fit your needs.

Check Hosting Provider

Any merchant that experienced serious issues during previous high-traffic periods should check his or her hosting provider’s plans to deal with the holiday rush. There’s no way to prevent some glitches entirely – even huge retailers like Amazon have been known to choke on holiday shopping traffic. But hosting providers should have a plan in place to cope as well as possible with increased traffic. And now is a good time to jot down all the support contact info and URLs, on the chance that the hosting provider itself will buckle under high demand.

Prep Payment Processing

This close to the holidays, merchants really should already have an existing relationship with a trusted Payment Processor and Payment Gateway. The holiday season is no time to experience merchant account freezes, holds or terminations – or be scrambling for a Payment Processing solution. Be wary of “instant onboarding” merchant account offerings, as delayed on-boarding may also result in sudden terminations. Look to Payment Processors such as T1 Payments for fast underwriting and reliable access to merchant financial services, even for businesses that are considered high-risk.

T1 Payments specializes in meeting the needs of high-risk merchants, providing a full suite of Payment Processing, including advanced fraud scrubbing and other risk management tools, and Payment Gateway services that integrate with over 175 different shopping carts. T1 also provides flat fee merchant accounts, complies fully with PCI, and offers comprehensive account monitoring, reporting and support to help high-risk merchants avoid chargebacks, fraud and other business risks. To find out more about our customizable global payment solutions for high-risk merchants please visit t1payments.com or call 866-518-2216.

Risky Business – Running an Online Dating Service

Online dating may be a match made in virtual heaven for merchants who are in search of a growing marketplace to leverage and can come up with a way to differentiate their offering. There are more than 2,500 online dating services operating in the U.S. alone, with 1,000 new online dating services opening around the world every year. So, there’s plenty of competition, but significant opportunities too – according to research firm IBISWorld, in the U.S online dating is expected to grow from 2.5 billion in 2018 to $3.2 billion by 2020. But while falling in love may be easy, running an online adult dating service is challenging.

Operating an Online Dating Business

Any business that offers “adult-only” services and goods is automatically branded as a high-risk business by financial services companies. This is primarily because the adult services industry as a whole has a high rate of chargebacks, and chargebacks cost money.

A chargeback happens when a customer is unhappy with a business’s services or products. The customer files a chargeback request, stating that their payment should be refunded. Fees are applied as soon as the chargeback process begins; retrieval fees to investigate the dispute all the way to a chargeback fee if the customer’s claim is ultimately found to be true. The typical retrieval fee is $5-15 per incident, and between $20-$50 for a chargeback – but may be much higher for high-risk businesses. Meanwhile, the money in dispute is withheld from the merchant’s account until the matter is settled – typically 60-75 days or longer. And even if the cardholder’s dispute will be rejected, the merchant still has to pay the fees associated with the chargeback.

Those fees aren’t the worst thing that can happen. If more than 2% of customers decide to institute chargebacks a merchant may lose the ability to process credit cards. And there are so many reasons for online dating customers to file chargebacks. It could be that the service didn’t fulfill their impossible dreams. Or they might need a little plausible deniability (“I didn’t sign up for this! My card must have gotten hacked, honey! I’ll call the credit card company right now!). Perhaps they just regret the whole thing. Or maybe the merchant wasn’t clear about what the service could deliver.

Merchant Accounts for Adult Businesses
Chances are excellent that anyone who is running an online dating site will need to work with a payment processor that specializes in high-risk businesses. But be wary of payment aggregators who approve accounts before they do their underwriting (a review of your business, management practices, financial history, and legality). Quick approvals can result in equally quick terminations or accounts that are frozen with no warning. It’s far better for the owner of an adult dating business to work with a payment processor like T1 Payments that specializes in high risk businesses and offers flexible underwriting that greatly increases the chances of approval, with no unpleasant surprises later.

Mitigating the Financial Risks 
Once approved for a merchant account, keep that account in good standing by doing everything possible to reduce chargebacks, by:

  • Having a clear refund policy
  • Providing an easy way for customers to cancel accounts/request refunds
  • Not promising things that the service can’t deliver, such as “True Love Guaranteed!”
  • Being very clear about any recurring charges such as subscriptions
  • Telling customers what company name will appear on their payment card statements.
  • Providing excellent customer support
  • Protecting customer privacy

Typically, customers will try to solve a problem directly with the merchant before filing a chargeback. Make it easy for customers to resolve the problem, and many chargebacks can be avoided.

Unfortunately, though, a merchant can do everything right and still get hit with chargebacks. It’s best to look for a payment processor that offers chargeback protection services. For example, T1 Payments works with two chargeback protection solution services – Ethoca and Verifi to reduce chargebacks and help merchants resolve payment card transaction disputes directly. T1 Payments also offers another layer of protection with fraud scrubbing technology, which can quickly spot and stop suspicious transactions that could result in chargebacks and/or financial loss for merchants.

T1 Payments specializes in meeting the needs of high-risk merchants, with over two decades of expertise and a full suite of payment processing services and solutions, including Payment Gateway services that integrate with over 175 different shopping carts. Our flat fee merchant accounts and customizable global payment solutions help your business grow and prosper. To find out more about T1 Payment’s services for high-risk online merchants please visit please visit t1payments.com or call 866-518-2216