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AN ANNUAL MIDIGATOR REPORT

The Consumer Confessional

2019

Introduction

Midigator’s The Consumer Confessional report provides valuable feedback and insight from real customers. This report explains why shoppers dispute purchases and their true feelings about how merchants resolve conflicts. 

This one-of-a-kind information can help improve the customer experience and prevent chargebacks from happening.  

We hope this resource is valuable to you!

The data in this report is from a survey of more than 2,000 U.S. consumers. 

Credit and debit card holders from all 50 states participated, and respondents were a nearly equal mix of males and females. Participants ranged in age from 18 to more than 66 years old. A complete overview of respondent demographics can be viewed here.

Report Overview

What are the most important conclusions that can be drawn from The Consumer Confessional? Here are some of the significant insights from the 2019 report and suggestions on how to respond. 

INSIGHTS & RECOMMENDATIONS

Despite what has commonly been believed, customers do try to work directly with businesses to resolve problems before going to their banks for chargebacks. Survey respondents shared comments like, “the store wouldn’t accept a return,” and, “they didn’t answer my email.” Some even claim the merchants told them to go to the bank! 

These chargebacks are easily preventable. If merchants commit to providing an exemplary customer experience, the vast majority of problems can be resolved before they escalate to chargebacks. 

Business improvements that would solve the specific shortcomings that consumers mentioned include:

  • Responding to emails promptly
  • Reducing call wait times
  • Fulfilling refund requests 
  • Offering faster shipping options
  • Extending return time limits
  • Using a clear and easy-to-understand billing descriptor1
  • Making it easy to find the business’s contact information
  • Offering regional customer support for international shoppers
  • Improving the clarity and accuracy of product or service descriptions
  • Clearly disclosing terms for recurring transactions2
  • Avoiding duplicate charges and incorrect transaction amounts

 

These updates are a great place to start. More detailed efforts can be made to improve business practices, return policies, and the customer experience.

People in their teens and early twenties are notoriously branded as irresponsible. In the payments world, careless attitudes often become friendly fraud3

In reality though, mature consumers are actually quite reckless. Of all the age groups surveyed, consumers in the 36 to 40 age range are more likely to file a chargeback than any other age group—nearly 50% have disputed a transaction. 

On the other hand, only 26.58% of 18 to 23-year-olds have requested a chargeback. This insight is important to note because it is contrary to popular belief and emphasizes the value of data-driven decisions. If fraud and chargeback prevention efforts are based on assumptions rather than detailed data analysis4, efforts will do much more harm than good.

The data in this report should be humbling for consumers, issuers5, and merchants alike. Chargebacks are an ever-present concern, and everyone contributes to their continuation. 

The harsh reality is each party involved has varying levels of impatience, oversight, inflexibility, and self-interest. Chargebacks will continue to be a problem until everyone recognizes the contributions they are making, accepts responsibility for their actions, and commits to improvements.

If you’d like assistance identifying areas of improvement and making adjustments, Midigator is happy to help. You can contact us here.

Popularity of Online Shopping

Buying products or services online is the norm for nearly all of the study participants. More than 95% have bought something online at least once in their lives. Even though the remaining 4.4% actively use the internet—this survey was completed online—they don’t choose to shop with eCommerce stores. 

POPULARITY OF ONLINE SHOPPING
Q. Have you ever bought products or services online?

Consumers who do shop online do it fairly often. More than 35% of respondents shop online at least once a week. Another 31% of respondents shop with online businesses at least once a month.

SHOPPING FREQUENCY
Q. How often do you shop online?

Demographics

What type of people file chargebacks? What are the most common characteristics of payment disputes?  

Online shoppers are responsible for the majority of chargebacks—98.22% of chargebacks analyzed in this report were associated with eCommerce purchases. 

Of those consumers who don’t shop online, only 15% have requested a chargeback.

CHARGEBACKS FOR OFF-LINE PURCHASES
Q: Have you ever disputed one of your off-line purchases?

However, consumers who don’t shop online have less familiarity with chargebacks. They are unsure of what a payment dispute entails and seem unaware of their actions. The actual number of off-line shoppers who have filed chargebacks could be much higher than reported.

One particular age range has a higher likelihood of filing chargebacks than any other. Of those consumers who are between the ages of 36 and 40, 48.24% have disputed a purchase. 

Surprisingly, the age group that is often thought of as irresponsible and prone to friendly fraud is actually the least likely to file a chargeback. Only 26.58% of participants between the ages of 18 and 23 have disputed a purchase.

CHARGEBACKS BY AGE RANGE
Q: Have you ever requested a chargeback or disputed a purchase with your bank?

Another demographic—gender—provides less insight. Both males and females were split almost equally in half when asked whether or not they had filed a chargeback.

CHARGEBACKS BY GENDER
Q: Have you ever requested a chargeback or disputed a purchase with your bank?

Males filed slightly more chargebacks than females, but they also shopped online a little more frequently. 

SHOPPING FREQUENCY BY GENDER
Q: About how often do you shop online?

Number of Chargebacks

So, how often do chargebacks actually happen? 

CHARGEBACK PARTICIPATION
Q: Have you ever requested a chargeback or disputed a purchase with your bank?

At first glance, this number may seem high. Does this imply that half of all purchases are disputed? Not necessarily. 

The percent of consumers who have filed a chargeback needs to be analyzed in the context of frequency—both chargeback frequency and shopping frequency.

CHARGEBACK FREQUENCY
Q: How many chargebacks have you filed in the last year?

Just over 14% of all survey participants have filed more than one chargeback in the last year. Yet the vast majority of consumers (90.8%) have shopped more than once in the last 12 months.  

SHOPPING FREQUENCY vs. NUMBER OF CHARGEBACKS
Q: How often do you shop online and how many transactions have you disputed?

For the most part, it seems like consumers are fairly responsible, and repeat offenses are less common than industry members previously thought. However, chargeback activity for frequent shoppers seems slightly higher than it should be. 

Consumers who shopped more than once a month (66.46%) filed at least 74.38% of the disputes analyzed in this report. To break down that group even further, consumers who shopped at least once a week (35.37%) filed 49.21% of the disputes.

SHOPPING FREQUENCY & THE LIKELIHOOD OF DISPUTES
Q: How often do you shop online and how many transactions have you disputed?

Obviously, the more someone shops online, the more chances there are of buying from a bad merchant or exposing account information to a fraudster. It’s understandable that very active shoppers would have a higher risk exposure that would correlate to a greater need for chargebacks.

However, the likely reality is that the more people shop online, the higher their expectations become and the greater their need for instant gratification. This translates to higher rates of friendly fraud.

Consumer-Merchant Interactions

How do consumers react when there is a problem with a purchase? Do they try to work it out with the merchant or do they go straight to the bank?

DISPUTE RESOLUTION
Q: Did you contact the business before you requested a chargeback?

A surprising 66.67% of respondents said they’ve always contacted the merchant before requesting a chargeback, and an additional 12.02% said they sometimes do.

 If customers do contact the merchant first, why are there still so many chargebacks? The evidence indicates that merchants may need to adopt a more customer-centric business philosophy. 

DISPUTE RESOLUTION
Q: What happened when you contacted the business?

“They said I had to remove my card information from the XBox to get a refund. I don’t own an XBox.”

“They said they were not able to give me a refund because I did purchase the item.”

“They said the money had been refunded and it would take 5 to 10 business days to receive it. I never got refunded.”

“They said we hadn’t returned the merchandise yet, but we had proof they signed for the package.”

“They said it was ok with them to ask the bank to reverse the charges, so that’s what we did.”

“They said they couldn’t do anything.”

It seems that several small updates to a business’s policies and procedures can help improve the customer experience and reduce chargebacks. Consumer feedback indicates the following improvements are needed: 

  • More responsive customer service departments
  • Faster shipping options
  • Longer return time limits
  • More complete customer records

 

The majority of consumers tried and failed to resolve their issues before seeking a chargeback. But why didn’t the other 21.31% even make an effort? And why will customers contact the merchant for some issues, but not all? 

DISPUTE RESOLUTION
Q: Why didn't you contact the business before disputing the transaction?

“I had this issue before. In my experience, the company never complies even when you can contact them. Now I just go right to the bank/card issuer.”

“I am vindictive and will always harm those who try to take advantage of me. I don’t stop until I win.”

“Because I expect the bank to have my best interests in mind, whereas businesses are typically looking to protect themselves.”

“It’s faster to go through the bank.”

“My bank is more efficient at resolving my issue.”

“It just felt like the bank would be more accurate.”

Again, consumer feedback is helpful in identifying areas of improvement. Merchants can focus on: 

  • Writing clear and easy-to-recognize billing descriptors
  • Making it easy to find contact information (publishing it online, including it in emails, etc.)
  • Reducing call wait times
  • Offering local customer service options for international shoppers

 

Consumers also expressed a desire for faster and more efficient resolutions. Therefore, merchants might want to proactively engage with customers rather than wait until an issue surfaces. Introducing a solution before consumers go looking for one might help reduce chargebacks. 

Lastly, consumer feedback indicates there are opportunities for issuers to improve their policies and practices too. In most situations, card network regulations require the cardholder to try to resolve the problem with the merchant before a chargeback can be initiated. If at least 20% of consumers aren’t doing that, banks are filing a significant amount of invalid disputes6

Therefore, banks are encouraged to improve compliance with card network regulations. Things like fear of confrontation and impatience are not valid reasons to file invalid disputes.

Chargeback Reasons

Why are consumers disputing transactions? The evidence is both predictable and surprising.

CHARGEBACK REASONS
Q: Why did you request the chargeback? What was your reason for disputing the purchase?

“The venue cancelled the event.”

“I didn’t want the product.”

“I didn’t receive the merchandise on time.”

“I was double charged for an item and it was easier to just call the bank than deal with the merchant. It was an obvious error on the merchant’s part and the bank took care of it for me.”

“The item was backordered for two months, but they charged me up front.”

“I cancelled the order within 24 hours and never received the product, but they didn’t refund the purchase.”

The surprising insight—yet consistent with what other data in this survey has indicated—is that a lot of chargebacks are preventable. As hard as merchants work to provide a quality product or service in a satisfying way, there is still room for improvement. 

Updates that can help reduce chargebacks include: 

  • Faster shipping options
  • Proper order fulfillment
  • Clear billing descriptors
  • Accurate product or service descriptions
  • Follow-through on refund requests
  • Clear disclosure for recurring transactions
  • Accurate payment processing techniques

 

The less surprising insight is the feedback that correlates with the findings in The Year in Chargebacks report:7 fraud and suspected fraud are the most common reasons for requesting disputes. But the age-old question remains: is it really fraud? Consumers admit that 21.5% of “unauthorized” transactions were made by someone the cardholder knew.

FRIENDLY FRAUD
Q: Did you know the person who made the unauthorized purchase?

These invalid “fraud” claims are a fairly significant amount, but are just a small portion of overall friendly fraud activity. More than 77% of all chargebacks classified as unauthorized transactions were actually friendly fraud8. The remaining cases are other false allegations, such as a cardholder denying any participation when, in fact, the purchase was made with the cardholder’s full consent. 

Conclusion

The Consumer Confessional provides an inside look at how customers feel and how they choose to act. This unprecedented insight can help the payments industry as a whole identify ways to better meet customer expectations to reduce the risk of chargebacks. 

This annual publication will serve as an ongoing resource for insightful analysis on emerging trends.

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