The Fair Credit Billing Act provides recourse in case you paid for a service you didn’t receive, though the situation is more ambiguous than receiving goods.
The pandemic has hastened the online move of services as well as goods.
Healthcare, therapy sessions and education are some of the services that have migrated online, voluntarily or involuntarily, due to the pandemic. What if you paid for an online service and either didn’t receive it or are not satisfied?
Reader Wanda finds herself in such a situation. She writes, “I have a pending charge of $200 on my credit card for a video consultation with a nurse practitioner who runs a medical marijuana spa and the fee is for a prescription for a medical marijuana card plus the video visit.
“I waited for over an hour online for the video visit, which I did not receive. The person finally called me and explained the process telling me an email would be sent to me that night with a link to get my medical marijuana card. I texted her the next day saying I received nothing and she texted back and said ‘give me about an hour’ and she would contact me. As of 9:30 p.m. today, no email or text from her. Can I get a reversal of that charge?”
Chargeback for services
It seems the situation involves getting a chargeback for a service that is not provided. If the chargeback involves merchandise that you didn’t receive, the situation is clearer; either you received the merchandise, or you didn’t. In case of services not received, there is more scope for ambiguity.
Chargebacks 911, a website that helps merchants deal with chargebacks, explains how a chargeback situation could come about for services that a consumer says they didn’t receive:
“The merchant failed to do something as promised. Or, the merchant’s policies and procedures weren’t clear, and there was confusion regarding what the consumer would actually receive. It’s also common that marketing causes chargebacks; unrealistic promises might be made.”
The firm advises merchants to adhere to the following procedures to avoid these situations:
- Make sure that the way they describe the services is accurate. The description should provide detailed information but should also be easy to understand. Supplementary videos and images could help explain any confusing aspects.
- Get consumers to sign off on the terms for providing the service and make sure they know what they will receive in return.
- Provide excellent service, responding to all customer questions and grievances quickly. Give customers various ways to get in touch, such as live chat, phone and email. And check social media accounts regularly to respond to comments.
If it comes to that, Chargebacks 911 also advises merchants to issue credits promptly. If they sense that their relationship with the customer is strained and a chargeback situation could ensue, it advises them to cancel the service and issue a refund.
See related: What to do if your online order never arrives
Disputing a charge with a credit card company
It seems a service provider would be wise enough to recognize a potential chargeback situation and promptly take steps to issue a refund if that’s called for. However, that’s not always the case, and you could also take recourse to the Fair Credit Billing Act to dispute a charge with a credit card issuer if that becomes necessary.
You should put in a billing error dispute in writing with the credit card company within 60 days of receiving the bill with the charge for the service that was not provided. You could also call the company, but you should send something in writing first, the California Attorney General’s office advises. Send this letter to the company’s address for billing inquiries or errors, not to its address for payments.
The letter should provide all your details, an account of the dispute and any evidence you have about the matter. The card issuer should acknowledge receipt of your letter within 30 days. And it has 90 days to look into the matter.
Also, you should inform the credit card issuer if you are holding back on paying the disputed amount, which you can legally do while it investigates the matter without triggering a report to the credit bureaus. However, you should continue to pay the rest of your credit card bill. If the credit card company rules in your favor, it will credit you for the disputed charge and any interest associated with it.
See related: Can I get a chargeback credit on a canceled card?
What if a chargeback is not provided?
If the card issuer rules against you, it will provide you a written explanation of its findings, and you will have to pay the disputed amount and any interest charges on it.
If you disagree with the card issuer’s findings, you can get back to it within 10 days to present any other evidence you might have. You could also ask to see any input it used to reach its decision.
Wanda, if you never received the services you ordered from the medical marijuana spa, after first making your best efforts to sort out the matter with the nurse practitioner, you should initiate a dispute with your card issuer, asking for a chargeback. Since this is all online, you should have a digital trail for evidence.
Good luck getting your money back!
Contact me at email@example.com with your credit card-related questions.