Have you ever ordered a product or service online and received something other than you expected? Perhaps that “Prada” handbag you ordered turned out not to be a Prada handbag, or that free trial you signed up for wasn’t actually free. Sooner or later, most online consumers will have a dispute with a merchant over products or services.
A vast majority of these situations are quickly and easily resolved simply by contacting the merchant or website directly, explaining the situation and how it missed your expectations. However, there are thousands of customer complaints here on Sitejabber, clearly illustrating that disputes don’t always lead to customer-friendly resolutions. Examples range from reviewers buying from merchants selling knock-off products and refusing to admit they are counterfeit, to reviewers having hundreds of dollars billed to their credit card after signing up for a “free trial”, to others never receiving the merchandise they paid for, while the website that sold to them can no longer be contacted. These are just a few of the ways consumers can fall victim to neglectful or malicious business practices online, but regardless of the exact circumstances involved, there are six simple actions you can take to both get your money back and help others avoid similar situations.
Contact the company
Your first action should be to contact the company and let them know you are disappointed with their product or service. If you have already written a lengthy review about the situation, you could also link to it in your email to let them know about it. However, if you suspect the company is knowingly taking advantage of consumers, be firm and don’t allow delays in getting your refund processed. Remember, companies that build their business model on these types of tactics know the avenues available to you to get your money back much better than you do and, oftentimes, employ stalling techniques designed to allow for less available time to demand a chargeback from your credit card company, should the need arise. Make sure you let the business know that you are aware of your rights, and theirs, and are prepared to work within that system to gain resolution.
For example, normally it is considered credit card fraud when a company charges your card but does not ship your item in a timely manner. The FTC guidance states, “If, after taking the customer’s order, you learn that you cannot ship within the time you stated or within 30 days, you must seek the customer’s consent to the delayed shipment.”
Request a chargeback
If you used a credit card for the transaction, fortunately you will have some level of buyer protection. Generally, customers using major credit cards have a higher level of buyer protection than money or bank wire transfers. Which is why we recommend not using a wire transfer if you are buying from a company that you have not purchased from before. If you fear that you may have been the victim of a scam while purchasing online, you should contact your credit card company as soon as possible and ask for a chargeback. A chargeback is the forcible return of funds to the consumer from the merchant’s account following a dispute. Chargebacks exist primarily for consumer protection, and they should be viewed as a last line of defense when dealing with a business that refuses to give a refund. For detailed steps on getting a chargeback visit our article here: The Chargeback: How to Get a Credit Card Refund if You’ve Been Scammed
File a complaint with the FTC and your state’s attorney general office
To file a complaint with the FTC, follow this link and be sure to include all of the pertinent information: FTC Complaint Assistant
To file a complaint with your state’s attorney general, use this site to find out your state’s attorney general contact information and phone numbers: National Association of Attorneys General
Write a review about the experience
By writing a review on Sitejabber you can help protect others from falling victim to a similar experience. Your review will be posted publically on Sitejabber and when consumers search for information on the specific company, your review may come up in the search results. You can also share your review via social media like Facebook and Twitter and warn those who are in your network. Also, don’t forget to let the company know that you’ve posted feedback about your experience online. Sometimes knowing that others are aware of your situation is enough to persuade a company to make things right.
Consider a security freeze on your credit
If you were the victim of fraud and used any personal information for the transaction, you may want to put a freeze on your credit to stop the possibility of that information being used to steal your identity or make other unauthorized purchases. In our recent article following the Equifax data breach, we outlined a step-by-step process on how to monitor and protect your personal information and prevent ID theft: Protecting Yourself from Identity Theft After the Equifax Data Hack
Consider getting a new credit card
Requesting a new card and updating the card info for existing auto payment vendors is not a process anyone wants to initiate. Nevertheless, replacing your card may be the best protection if you have concerns about the integrity of a merchant you purchased from.
Enduring the refund process with a resistant or fraudulent business can be a nightmare. Utilizing the tips above will help you efficiently work through getting your money refunded and protect you from further potential harm.
Remember, always research new merchants to help insure you’re ordering from a reliable company. If you happen to find yourself in a situation where you believe that you’ve been the victim of a scam or fraud, make sure to act fast. The more quickly you contact the company and your bank or card issuer, the better. In these times, don’t forget you are not the first person who has been scammed by a website. Many of these sites exist to take advantage of uneducated consumers and know how to work within the system to make getting your money back seem more daunting than it really is. Utilizing the tips above to get your money back, and publically detailing your experience to help others avoid these businesses, is the best way to permanently shut them down and helps to make buying online a better and safer experience for everyone.