Chargeback Dispute: Definition and Example


In summary, a chargeback is a transaction reversal process that allows customers to dispute charges on their credit or debit cards and request refunds from their card issuers. It represents a form of consumer protection, providing a safety net for cases of fraud, unauthorized charges, non-delivery of goods, or dissatisfaction with products or services. Chargebacks can be initiated by both the merchant and the cardholder’s issuing bank, but they may result in fees for merchants. Federal law mandates that card issuers offer chargebacks within 60 days of the billing date. While initiating a chargeback incurs a fee, it is advisable to try resolving disputes directly with the merchant whenever feasible.

Definition of Chargeback

In the event that a consumer has reasonable order to contest a credit card charge or debit card, they may do so by initiating a chargeback with their card issuer.

It enables the client to request a refund by getting in touch with their bank or credit card provider and outlining a legitimate basis for the dispute, such as fraud, unauthorized charges, a failure to deliver the items, or displeasure with the service.

The card issuer then investigates the claim and, if deemed valid, reverses the transaction, refunding the customer’s money and deducting the refunded amount from the merchant’s account.

Chargebacks serve as a form of consumer protection, providing a means for customers to address issues with purchases without direct interaction with the merchant.

However, chargebacks can have implications for merchants, including financial losses, fees, and potential harm to their reputation.

Understanding chargeback

Think of a chargeback as a safety net for credit and debit card users. And the supposed fear that something might go wrong when you use your credit card to make a purchase.

For example, you might receive a product that doesn’t match the description, or you might notice unauthorized charges on your account. That’s where chargebacks come into play.

A chargeback allows you to dispute a transaction and get your money back.

You can initiate a chargeback by contacting your bank or credit card company and explaining the problem. They will look into the issue for your satisfaction.

If your claim is valid and the bank agrees with you, they will reverse the transaction and refund your money.

Your initial payment will be credited back to your account in full.

The bank will then work with the merchant or seller to resolve the dispute.

Chargebacks serve as a form of consumer protection, giving you a better way to safeguard yourself if something goes wrong with a transaction.

It ensures that you’re not stuck with a product or service that doesn’t meet your expectations or that you didn’t authorize in the first place.

However, it’s important to understand that chargebacks should be used responsibly.

They are intended for situations where you genuinely believe you’ve been treated unfairly or where you’ve exhausted other avenues for resolution.

Chargebacks can have consequences for merchants, such as financial losses and potential damage to their reputation.

A chargeback is a consumer protection mechanism that allows you to dispute a transaction and get a replacement if something goes wrong with a purchase made using your credit or debit card.

It’s a way to ensure that you’re not stuck with a faulty product, unauthorized charges, or other issues that could negatively impact your finances.


How to dispute the chargeback

If you want to dispute a chargeback, here are the general steps you can follow:

  • Gather evidence: Collect all relevant information and documents related to the disputed transaction. This may include receipts, order confirmations, tracking numbers, communication records with the customer, and any other evidence that supports your case.
  • Understand the reason for the chargeback: Review the reason provided by the cardholder or their bank for initiating the chargeback. This will help you address the specific issue and build a stronger case.
  • Contact the payment processor or acquirer: Reach out to your payment processor or acquirer (the company that handles your payment transactions) as soon as possible after receiving the chargeback notification. Inform them of your intent to dispute the chargeback and provide them with the necessary details and evidence.
  • Respond to the chargeback: Follow the instructions provided by your payment processor or acquirer to formally respond to the chargeback. Typically, this involves submitting a chargeback response document. Provide a clear and detailed explanation of why you believe the chargeback is unjustified, and include any supporting evidence.
  • Provide compelling evidence:Present your strongest evidence to support your case. This may include proof of delivery, customer communication records, signed contracts, or any other documentation that proves the validity of the transaction and the fulfillment of your obligations as a merchant.
  • Adhere to deadlines if applied:Pay attention to the timeline specified by your payment processor or acquirer for responding to the chargeback. Missing deadlines could result in forfeiting your right to dispute the chargeback.
  • Maintain open communication at all times: Stay in contact with your payment processor or acquirer throughout the dispute process. Be responsive to their inquiries and provide any additional information or documentation they may request.
  • Seek professional advice if needed: If you encounter difficulties or face complex chargeback disputes, consider consulting with a chargeback specialist or seek legal advice to understand your options and improve your chances of success.


Example of chargeback

  1. Let’s say you notice a suspicious transaction on your credit card statement for a significant amount of money.
  2. You realize that you didn’t authorize this transaction and suspect that your card may have been compromised.
  3. Immediately, you contact your credit card company to report the unauthorized transaction.
  4. They confirm that the charge was indeed fraudulent and assure you that they will investigate the matter.
  5. During the investigation, your credit card company temporarily reverses the fraudulent charge and credits the disputed amount back to your account.
  6. This sees that you are not held responsible for the unauthorized transaction while they investigate further.
  7. The credit card company contacts the merchant associated with the transaction to gather information and verify its legitimacy. If the merchant is not available to provide proof that the transaction was valid and authorized, the credit card company may decide to proceed with the chargeback.
  8. As a result, the funds are permanently deducted from the merchant’s account and returned to you, effectively nullifying the fraudulent charge.
  9. The chargeback process acts as a safeguard, protecting you from financial loss due to unauthorized transactions.
  10. It’s important to note that chargebacks in the finance industry primarily occur in cases of fraud, unauthorized transactions, or disputes regarding services not delivered as promised.
  11. The chargeback process provides a mechanism for customers to recover their funds and maintain the integrity of their financial accounts.



In conclusion, a chargeback is a mechanism that allows credit and debit card users to dispute and potentially reverse a transaction. It stands as a form of consumer protection, providing a safety net for cases of fraud, unauthorized charges, or disputes with merchants. By initiating a chargeback, customers can seek a refund for a problematic transaction, and the responsibility falls on the merchant or seller to address the issue.

It is crucial to provide compelling evidence and adhere to deadlines to increase the chances of a successful dispute. While chargebacks offer valuable consumer protection, it is essential to use them responsibly and attempt to resolve disputes directly with the merchant whenever possible. Overall, chargebacks play a vital role in maintaining trust and fairness in the financial system, ensuring that consumers are not left financially compromised due to problematic transactions.

Key takeaways

  • A chargeback happens when a customer disputes a transaction or returns a purchased item, resulting in the payment being refunded to their debit or credit card.
  • Both the “merchant” and the “cardholder” bank have the ability to initiate the chargeback process.
  • When a chargeback takes place, merchants often face fees imposed by the card issuer.
  • According to federal law, card issuers must provide the option for chargebacks within 60 days from the billing date.
  • Initiating a chargeback incurs a fee, so it is advisable to try resolving disputes directly with the merchant whenever feasible.
View Article Sources
  1. Disputing errors on your credit report – Federal trade commission consumer advice
  2. Chargebacks and exception processing – Treasury department
  3. Chargebacks FAQs – Pennsylvania state university