These are unauthorized charges!

Perhaps one of the most frequent agitated claims my company gets from customers calling in is “These are unauthorized charges!” When this is the first thing out of a callers mouth, we can be 99% sure that the charges were in fact authorized, but the customer was either not paying attention to or just not remembering what it was they signed up for.

What really gets our customer service reps going is nearly all of these people will never accept the fact that they did actually sign up and agree to the service, no matter how much explaining or proof you provide. Is this just a gene that some people are born without? A common sense ability that simply is not available to everyone out there?

These are unauthorized charges!

Granted, I understand when people are “tricked” by some marketing tactics out there, but when the details of a product or service are repeated multiple times in the purchasing process, I really have little no sympathy.

Typically, going hand in hand with the “unauthorized charges” statement is the claim that “This is fraud!” Another baseless and completely misunderstood statement being spewed vehemently in an effort to try and scare a representative into refunding all of the charges ever made by a company.

Funny thing is, we not only keep full records of the enrollment by the user, but we also take note of the IP address used when the registration took place. Even without delving legally into the precise user in an ISPs record to know that this was, in fact, the actual person, you can, with a public lookup services, identify the city and sometimes even the more detailed location of the computer that did the transaction. When this lines right up with the address of the credit card holder, we can feel fairly safe in knowing that yes, this doofus did, in fact, sign up.

These are unauthorized charges!

In the end, though, we typically refund much of the fees charged, which irks me to no end. We do this for two, sad reasons. First, the merchant industry is so screwed up that customers can in fact typically charge back anything they want on a credit card, whether they make false statements in the process or not. Though there are some basic yet futile ways for a merchant to dispute a customer charge reversal, in the end having too many chargebacks will get your account shut down whether you have resolved them or not. Second, we simply find it easier to refund these noisy, annoying customers than deal with long term liability of them making noise with the BBB, State Attorney Generals, etc. Yes, whether they are true or not, their false claims to organizations end up hurting you more as a business than just giving their money back.

What really bothers me about all this is that our company is in fact in the right; yet, it doesn’t matter. In the name of protecting consumers, both private and governmental groups are so skewed to the customer that they hurt businesses. I’m all for protecting consumers from actual scams and deceptive marketing practices, but what about protecting the small businesses of the world from predatory and negligent consumers?

More on the failings of the merchant account industry another day.