What Is Compelling Evidence for Chargeback Representments?
By Chris Alarie on May 4, 2022
“You can cut all the flowers but you cannot keep Spring from coming.”
― Pablo Neruda
Chargebacks are an inevitable source of lost revenues that are an unfortunate, inherent part of running a merchant business. Merchants should do everything they can to prevent chargebacks, but sometimes they will occur regardless. Among those inevitable chargebacks, however, are some that can and should be fought. Representment offers merchants the opportunity to retrieve revenue lost to chargebacks, if conducted properly. At the heart of every successful representment is the right compelling evidence.
What Is Compelling Evidence?
Compelling evidence is the actual documentation and evidence that merchants provide in support of their representment efforts. While the entire representment package is important, the compelling evidence is what will ultimately be the determining factor in deciding whether payment will be returned to the merchant. A merchant could hire the ghost of Vladimir Nabokov to write their rebuttal letter and it wouldn’t matter if there isn’t sufficient and relevant compelling evidence in support of it.
It can be difficult to know what should be used for compelling evidence in any particular dispute. It is important that the evidence that the merchant offers fits the reasons that the consumer gives for the chargeback.
How to Match Compelling Evidence to the Dispute
There are multiple factors to consider when determining what to compile and present as compelling evidence but the most important is the reason code given for the chargeback. The banks and card brand will consider the compelling evidence as it relates to the reason code. Any evidence that does not fit the reason code will not result in a win for the merchant. For example, a delivery confirmation receipt would not be relevant compelling evidence for a chargeback with a counterfeit merchandise reason code.
The nature of the original transaction is also an important factor in choosing the right compelling evidence. For an in-person retail transaction, compelling evidence may take the form of such things as a signed receipt or a scanned copy of the cardholder’s photo ID. For an online transaction, compelling evidence may involve consumer IP address information, proof of AVS and CVV matching, or copies of email or chatbot conversations with the cardholder.
Some chargeback representment efforts may be about trying to reverse a chargeback that was processed on a transaction that was also voluntarily refunded by the merchant—the dreaded double refund. In those cases, the compelling evidence would be documentation showing that the refund was processed.
Examples of Compelling Evidence
A comprehensive overview matching potential compelling evidence to reason codes would take more space than what we have available in this article. But some representative examples demonstrate how the compelling evidence should be matched to the reason code.
Example 1: Visa Reason Code 13.1 - Merchandise/Services Not Received
For this reason code, the cardholder alleges that the merchant did not provide the goods or services as promised. Some examples of compelling evidence that may adequately serve as a response to this reason code include:
- Delivery confirmation documentation
- Documentation showing that the agreed upon delivery date has not yet passed
- Documentation showing that the cardholder canceled the order and received a refund
- Emails, social media posts, photographs, documentation of access to the service’s website, or other evidence showing that the cardholder received and is using the merchandise or service
- Documentation that the cardholder has informed the merchant that they no longer want to dispute the transaction
- Documentation showing that the same device and card associated with the dispute were used in a previous transaction that wasn’t disputed
- Proof that a travel or entertainment ticket was received at the cardholder’s billing address
- Proof that a travel or entertainment ticket was scanned and received at the gate for the event or travel departure point
- Evidence that loyalty program rewards were earned or redeemed as part of the transaction
- Documentation showing that the cardholder made additional purchases tied to the original transaction (such as service upgrades) and didn’t dispute them
Depending on the nature of the purchase, there may be other, more specific sorts of documentation that can be used to rebut a claim that the merchandise or services weren’t received.
Example 2: Mastercard Reason Code 4840 - Fraudulent Processing Of Transactions
For this reason code, the cardholder claims to have authorized one card-present transaction with a merchant, but is disputing one or more additional transactions conducted in the next 15 minutes, claiming that they were not authorized. Examples of compelling evidence to rebut this reason code include:
- Documentation that the merchant processed two separate transactions for different goods and services that were both authorized
- Evidence that a PIN was provided and submitted with the authorization request for both transactions
- Evidence of a refund or the cardholder informing the merchant that they no longer want to dispute the transaction
- Some other evidence to the effect that the cardholder’s participation in the original transaction proves that the additional charges are also valid
Example 3: American Express Reason Code A02 - No Valid Authorization
This reason code occurs if the bank claims that the merchant did not receive an authorization approval before processing the transaction. In this circumstance, the issuer is processing a chargeback due to the fact that the request was either declined or the card had expired. Ostensibly, this would seem like a chargeback that can’t be effectively fought. But there are certain circumstances in which a merchant can pursue representment on a chargeback with this reason code. In those situations, the following sorts of compelling evidence would be appropriate:
- Evidence that the transaction was processed correctly, with proof of the valid authorization approval.
- Documentation proving that the transaction was processed before the card expired
- Documentation that a refund has already been processed
- Documentation that authorization for a transit contactless transaction was obtained within the given time limit for any aggregated charge that caused the combined taps since the most recent approved authorization to exceed the chargeback protection threshold or proof that a new account status check authorization was obtained at the time when the most recent approved authorization exceeded the authorization time period
As these examples demonstrate, the sources of and nature of chargebacks can vary wildly. Accordingly, the type of compelling evidence that is used to fight chargebacks varies as well. It is essential for merchants to know why a chargeback has occurred, what compelling evidence is needed, and whether or not they have that evidence available.
Some reason codes are extremely difficult, if not impossible, to successfully dispute. There may be compelling evidence that a merchant can offer in response to those reason codes but it would be a longshot at best. Additionally, some reason codes may ostensibly be easier to dispute but the necessary evidence isn’t available for a particular chargeback. Some chargebacks may seem illegitimate to the merchant but, due to a lack of compelling evidence or the general cardholder-friendly nature of the chargeback system, they can’t be won. And, of course, some chargebacks are legitimate and can’t be won no matter what.
Fighting chargebacks is an important part of running a merchant business. But it is also an expensive, and time-consuming endeavor. Merchants should try to limit their representment efforts to chargebacks that they can actually fight and win. A key part of knowing whether or not you can win a particular chargeback representment is understanding compelling evidence.