A dispute (also known as a chargeback) occurs when a participant contacts their credit card company or bank to complain about a payment on their statement, leading to a reversal of the payment received. This can happen for a variety of reasons. The most common ones are if the participant thinks it's a fraudulent payment, or if the participant claims not to have received the service.
When your participant files a dispute, the full amount paid for the trip is automatically removed from your account and placed on hold by our payment processor until the dispute is resolved. It takes approximately 60-80 days for the bank to reach a resolution for a dispute, during which time, the funds are temporarily returned to the participant.
Disputes are an unfortunate reality of accepting payments online, but they are very rare. Have a quick look at exactly what happens when a payment becomes flagged as a disputed charge (click to enlarge):
I received a dispute/chargeback - what now?
If a dispute/chargeback occurs, WeTravel will inform you immediately and help you every step of the way toward resolution. There are two common scenarios:
1. The participant disputed the payment by mistake.
Often, participants simply don't remember that they paid a travel organizer for a certain trip (statements will identify WeTravel charges with "WT* " and the first 18 characters of your trip name "WT* FIRST 18 CHARACTER").
In this case, the best course of action would be to contact the participant to ask him or her to withdraw the dispute.
2. The participant requested an unjustified refund.
In this case, WeTravel contacts the organizer to ask for evidence that the participant requested an unjustified refund. It’s important that the organizer submits sufficient evidence to show that the dispute is, in fact, unjustified (e.g., email exchanges, copies of the cancellation policy for the trip). WeTravel would then submit this evidence to the bank or credit card company to resolve the dispute.
This evidence needs to show that the participant purchased the trip, subsequently canceled and that you honored the terms of the cancellation policy they agreed to at the time of booking. It also must show that you went above and beyond to offer alternatives and tried to recover as much as you could for them given the extenuating circumstances.
We will use the following details to be filed as evidence:
The cancellation policy in effect at the time of booking
Any discussions of the cancellation policy during the planning & booking process
Once the participant was considering cancellation, other alternatives such as postponement that you offered them
Any conversation you had with the participant before or after they decided to cancel indicating that you were trying to recover as much as you could from your suppliers for them
Your attempts to recover the funds from suppliers, and their refusal to return the funds to you
Can an organizer be sure to "win" a dispute?
Unfortunately, there is never a guarantee that the organizer will win a dispute. WeTravel will submit evidence in a timely manner and build the strongest case possible to fight a dispute on an organizer's behalf. However, the bank or credit card company makes the final ruling. WeTravel can never guarantee that a dispute will be won by the organizer.
The best way to ensure that you get your funds back is to ask your client to withdraw the dispute. We've found that many participants don't have a complete understanding of what filing a dispute entails. In some cases, participants have been convinced to withdraw simply by providing them with more information about the process and what it means for you as a small business.
If you believe the participant might be open to withdrawing the dispute, it's best to reach out to them as soon as possible to request that they do so. The key messages we've used to ask participants to withdraw disputes are:
Explain how their funds are currently with the individual suppliers such as hotels and activity providers, and that you are working hard to get as much back as you can as quickly as possible.
Explain that you are willing to help them recover as much of the amount paid as possible, but if it goes to a dispute, then it is an all-or-nothing decision made by the bank, and they may not receive anything at all.
Explain that postponement was offered because it's often possible to preserve more of their funds from suppliers if they will use them again in the future.
How long does it take to receive a decision about a dispute?
Disputes are generally resolved within 2-3 months from the time that WeTravel submits evidence to a bank or credit card company. This is the case even if the participant has withdrawn the dispute in the meantime. Banks are permitted 3 months from the date of evidence submission to reach a resolution (see this article by the US Consumer Financial Protection Bureau).
Only after WeTravel's receipt of an official decision that the dispute was won by the organizer will he or she have access through WeTravel to the funds previously disputed.
How are disputes for ACH and SEPA payments handled?
Unlike credit and debit card payments, ACH and SEPA disputes cannot be contested, though they are more difficult for customers to initiate.
In order to dispute an ACH or SEPA payment, your customer must inform their bank in writing, unlike credit and debit payments, where your customer can dispute a charge simply by clicking a button in their online account.
Given the technical nature of those payments, there is no way to fight or contest the dispute of an ACH or SEPA payment. Your participant will have to submit the payment again in order for you to receive the disputed funds back.
Is there a time limit to dispute a transaction?
Cardholders are typically allowed to initiate disputes within 120 days of the original payment. The SEPA and ACH network allows 60 days (8 weeks) for consumers to contest a debit.
Can I speed up the dispute process?
If your participant has agreed to withdraw the dispute, you can ask them to provide an official "Dispute Withdrawal Letter" that we can submit to our payment provider. However, there is no guarantee that this step will speed up the process.
I have lost a dispute - what can I do now?
Disputes are decided by the cardholder’s bank or credit card company. Unfortunately, once a dispute is lost the outcome is final and the payment cannot be recovered.
What are the fees if you "lose" the dispute?
According to our terms and conditions, which are agreed to upon account creation, any travel organizer account holder is legally liable to cover the disputed amount as well as the associated administrative fees.
In certain cases, WeTravel will honor requests to waive the administrative fees associated with the chargeback as a gesture of goodwill. However, per WeTravel's terms and conditions, this would be a one-off concession made at our discretion.
If the organizer does not have sufficient funds in his or her account to cover the lost amount, per our terms and conditions, the organizer would be required to remit payment to correct a negative balance to his or her WeTravel account.