As we hunker in our sweatpants, logging in for our day's work from the spare bedroom, let's talk about some of the realities and new challenges of the COVID-19 virus and chargebacksAs we hunker in our sweatpants, logging in for our day's work from the spare bedroom, let's talk about some of the realities and new challenges of the COVID-19 virus and chargebacks.

We are all adjusting to our new work situation and learning how to appreciate the easy commute, the relaxed business attire, the endless access to the refrigerator. We are also learning that people react differently during stressful situations: sometimes bringing out the worst in people but far more often bringing out the best in people.

The same uncertain behavior happens when goods and services are not delivered as expected. Some people that will do the easy thing and hit the Dispute button in their banking app; or call the bank to say "it wasn't me," while others will do the right thing and reach out to the business first. For several reasons, the wait time on the phone with issuing banks has significantly increased, making the easy Dispute button even more appealing to customers.

So now they contact you. Probably, getting hold of the right person is harder to do when your call center is staffed every third desk for social distancing or staff is at home. The company's VPN is stalling out and everyone is on edge because the pandemic is keeping them inside, out of touch and away from their routines.

So cleansing breath in and out. Let's take a moment to step back and consider the right business approach:

  1. Talk to your customers and be proactive. Communication matters now more than ever.
  2. Be ready to refund or offer credit. If you know that your service or goods are delayed or may never happen, tell your customers and offer a refund, credit voucher or an alternative product or service.
  3. Be ready to respond to disputes, and this will mean you either accept or challenge in response.
  4. Educate yourself on the resources available from the Federal and local governments to support your business.

Now let's review what MasterCard, Visa, American Express and Discover are recommending. All have sent out communications calling for sensitivity and compassion in the dispute world. "We strongly encourage issuers to have cardholders attempt to resolve disputes with merchants before processing a chargeback," said MasterCard.

No one wants a huge increase in disputes, and the card brands have each identified ways they are trying to help. MasterCard, for instance, is asking issuers to be patient when refunds are slow and for businesses to implement flexible policies like fee waivers, store credit or vouchers for future service. They also note that "alternatives" to refunds must be clearly disclosed in the terms and conditions of the purchase. MasterCard is suspending assessments for businesses in the Excessive Fraud or Chargeback Programs for six and four months, respectively.

Visa is doing their part by implementing a dispute monitoring program designed to identify issuers (aka banks and credit unions) who are submitting excessive disputes against Airlines, Entertainment, Lodging Transportation and Travel Services. They are suspending the Visa Dispute Monitoring Program and Visa Fraud Monitoring Program for the Travel and Entertainment businesses through July. Visa will also waive their fee assessments associated with monitoring programs for companies who can demonstrate direct pandemic impact.

American Express has extended their time-frame to respond to all disputes, in the short-term, from March 1 to May 31, 2020, to 30 days. If you are unable to respond to the dispute online, please email with the rebuttal information. We will do our best to work with you and the dispute information to see if it is possible to respond to the issuer. Discover is currently considering exceptions to time-frame violations on a case-by-case basis.

Other steps that both Visa and MasterCard have taken is to move out their scheduled April releases to July, which gives your business a reprieve from the growing business card fees for some interchange qualifications. Businesses with continuity programs will see the requirement to change their descriptor pushed out until April 2021, but consumer communication requirements are still required as of April 18, 2020.

Finally, keep in mind when working disputes:

  • Deadlines matter. The best practice is to respond to retrieval requests in ten days and disputes in 16.
  • Each Reason code requires specific documentation.
  • Do not refund a payment when you receive a dispute. Refunds sent after a dispute mean that you have refunded the payment twice to your customer, and spent additional money on fees.

If you have more questions about best practices or disputes and how best to respond to them, please don't hesitate to reach out or review the documentation we provided here. If you are having a surge in disputes and are worried about qualifying for a card brand dispute program, check out the thresholds and talk to us. Stay focused on delivering service to your customers. We are monitoring all the card brand guidance and will help wherever we can. Mostly from the spare bedroom in our sweats. Be safe and stay healthy. We'll get through this.

About Qualpay

Qualpay is a fully-integrated payments platform that utilizes the most up to date technology to reduce costs and streamline back-office operations. Its comprehensive system addresses and resolves the payment challenges businesses face, ensuring a stronger, more robust infrastructure that allows companies to focus on growing their business. Qualpay's reporting intelligence and data analytics allow customers to quickly and efficiently manage their payment finances, saving them both time and money. Simply put, Qualpay provides a better way to manage payments. For more information, please visit