Chargeback rates have become a severe problem for various online merchants over the past couple months during the COVID-19 crisis. Businesses continue to deal with the economic fall out. For example, some within the subscription, travel, sports and supplement sectors see increasing levels of chargebacks. This is particularly true for US-based merchants. And, let’s not forget e-commerce companies accepting US credit card orders.
The reasons why these companies are struggling during the coronavirus crisis differ. For some, disrupted supply chains mean their delivery times have become unsustainable. For others, there’s been a complete lack of demand for their products or services. But, more importantly, consumers are conserving cash instead of spending their money on non-essential items.
Does this sounds familiar? If so, how can you, as a merchant, lower the current risk associated with your business? How can you keep the ability to process payments with your merchant account? This post will offer some insight into how to survive this crisis and keep chargeback rates at acceptable levels.
How COVID-19 has affected the e-commerce merchants
The global pandemic has hit e-commerce merchants as hard as many other businesses that are struggling. Perhaps the effect has been felt more in the supply chain than in other operational aspects of the business.
China has since got back on its feet since the initial outbreak in Wuhan. But the chaos it wreaked on production remains. Many factories had already shut down for Chinese New Year celebrations. After remaining closed as a result of the COVID-19, some factories are now working through a monumental backlog of orders. Some reports suggest that 75% of all American companies have experienced supply chain disruption. With goods taking so long to arrive and other shipping delays, chargebacks are soaring.
Additionally, customers have waited on hold for hours to be refunded. This is the result of companies with limited staff. Many are not receiving replies to emails. Leaving them no option but to issue a chargeback.
Chargeback rates have increased during lockdowns
Many people are requesting cancellations and refunds because they want to save money for essential items. According to recent research, just under half of all adults have changed their spending habits as a direct result of COVID-19. Of that group, 35% have admitted that they’ve cut back on spending in preparation for the impact of the pandemic. Focusing their remaining discretionary income on essential items only.
This has rendered some business verticals highly susceptible. For example, subscription-based marketing software platforms are taking a huge hit. Visits to the websites of online travel agents, airlines, and train operators have fallen off a proverbial cliff. The story is even worse for fantasy sports. Sports-related merchants have seen their only commodity temporarily halted right across the globe. But some football (soccer) leagues are beginning to start up again. Giving these merchants a glimmer of hope.
Are you struggling with high chargeback rates? Worried about the effect it’s going to have on your payment processing abilities? Then read our two-part ultimate guide on how to lower them to acceptable levels for acquiring banks!
A wave of refunds, fraud, and chargebacks hit the e-commerce industry
The issues described above have understandably led to more returns and refunds in the e-commerce industry. Some of the hardest hit include businesses with sports betting and subscription merchants as mentioned prior. Also, merchants registered under high-risk merchant category codes (MCC) experienced sales slumps, as they provided non-essential products. This can be seen as more “issuing bank declines” as your customer’s bank may be rejecting or scrubbing transactions. In turn, declines increase even more.
Merchants selling supplements, skin creams and other health products are seeing sales increase, although some are not able to keep up with demand or cannot ship in a timely fashion, which is causing more refunds and chargebacks. According to experts in the industry, friendly fraud will increase as products take longer to arrive than usual and consumers will likely experience buyer’s remorse more often when ordering luxury goods.
Multiple scams raise risk for online retailers
Friendly fraud isn’t the only problem for merchants though. Figures from the UK’s National Fraud & Cyber Crime Reporting Centre show that online fraud cases rose by 400% in the month of March alone. Reuters reports that so far, online shoppers in the UK have lost more than £800,000 to fake online goods. Driving up the acquirer risk ratings for all e-commerce merchants across the board.
Meanwhile, the FBI has warned of an increasing number of COVID-19 scams. Attackers have been gaining access to accounts via fake CDC phishing emails. These scams are contributing to a rise in account takeover fraud. These fraudulent purchases are compounding the issues felt by all online retailers at the moment.
But it’s not all doom and gloom for the online retail industry. Early research suggests that as many as 43% of online transactions are being undertaken by new customers. This presents an opportunity for those some merchants to increase their market share and revenue.
What can e-commerce merchants do to fight back and protect their business?
Managing increase in demand and sales is imperative, keep customers informed and communicate with them to ensure they are aware of delays on their order . Some merchants are dealing with a deluge of refund requests. No matter your situation, there are ways you can fight back to protect yourself against the devastating effects chargebacks can have on your business. Here are just some of the steps you should be taking to mitigate the threat of high chargeback rates:
Work with your logistics company to implement for stringent delivery confirmation:
Seemingly everything is now delivered to the doorstep of customers. Some devious customers are trying to take advantage of the increased delivery volumes by issuing chargebacks. Many claim they never received their items. In many cases they have. Therefore, ask your logistics firm to tighten up delivery confirmation to include a tracking number. During COVID-19, most customers do not want to have contact with delivery drivers, as such you can ask delivery companies to take a picture of the product when they drop it off at the customers door.
Make it easier than ever to cancel
Many chargebacks are the result of laziness and ease. Reduce this threat by providing hassle-free refunds and transparent cancellation policies. If consumers can cancel in a few clicks, calling their bank and going on hold for hours in their bid to issue a chargeback won’t seem as easy. Also, consider adding chat and telephone support to give your customers multiple ways of getting in touch.
Take advantage of more relaxed chargeback dispute procedures:
Visa has set up a specific COVID-19 Monitoring Program to help merchants better deal with chargeback disputes. American Express has followed a similar route and relaxed the number of days you have to present evidence against a chargeback claim. So don’t worry if it’s taking you longer than usual to gather evidence, you may still have time to submit. Mastercard has also pushed back changes to chargeback arbitration. Making it cheaper to contest chargebacks.
Keep communicating with your payment processor and acquiring bank:
Acquirers know you’re under pressure, so they’re already going to be more understanding than usual. But still keep them updated of any potential issues coming down the line. If you’ve got a good history and relationship with your bank, they will be more accommodating.
Fight fraud with state-of-the-art anti-fraud tools
Another advantage of being in the good graces of your acquiring bank is they may help you to set up sophisticated anti-fraud tools such as 3D-secure (3DS). With 3DS routing in place, fraud rates will decline and your conversions should remain consistent given the new 3DS protocol avoids friction with the customer. With so many different types of fraud on the rise, this could be a vital weapon in your defense.
Implement risk management tools
Solutions like Ethoca and Verifi help to facilitate real-time information exchange between issuers and acquirers. This helps to stop chargebacks in their tracks before they have a negative effect on your business. Similarly, you can outsource your management of chargebacks to specialist third-party teams. That way you can concentrate your efforts on fulfilling orders. They can even provide representation at chargeback arbitrations.
Limit order sizes
There’s nothing more damaging to a business than a chargeback for a high-value transaction. Thus, it’s a good idea to limit your cart to transactions of less than $250. That way you can prevent one chargeback from having such a devastating impact.
Fight back against chargebacks with help from the high-risk merchant specialists
Merchants in high-risk verticals are dealing with increases in demand. They are also managing a surge of chargeback rates and refunds that may eat up in additional profits generated during COVID. But, by taking the steps detailed above, you can continue to process payments and ensure continued cash flow for your business.
We help merchants implement items that have big impacts on chargeback figures.
Mark P., a merchant selling nootropics started experiencing an uptick in chargebacks in mid April. In order to mitigate this issue before Mark’s merchant account gets shut down or worse, he gets MATCH-listed, we took the following steps:
- Velocity checks were added to limit purchases per card number and email address.
- We helped him create and maintain a negative database to ensure “bad” customers don’t buy again.
- Visa Merchant Purchase Inquiry (VMPI) is a tool to get alerts directly from card issuers so that consumer issues can be resolved and no chargeback is prompted. Mark added this via a third-party solution we recommended.
- We helped Mark create a report to review statistics for his chargeback rates by affiliate. Now he can take action and terminate affiliates sending bad traffic.
- Lastly, we conducted a test purchase and reviewed the order process. We received the order eight days later, but Mark told his customers they would receive it in five days within the US. Given supply chain issues during COVID-19, many orders were delayed. We recommended he change his shipping policy. He also sent regular emails to his customers to advise them of their order status.
These small changes have resulted in a 20% reduction in chargeback rates in the last two weeks, likely more next month.
These are unprecedented times, but here at DirectPayNet we are operating as normal. We’re more committed than ever to helping our high-risk clients secure the best possible payment processing outcomes.