The 2021 Chargeback Field Report

Introduction

The 2021 Chargeback Field Report, brought to you by Chargebacks911 and conducted by Censuswide, is a comprehensive and independent report offering a cross view of the state of chargebacks and chargeback management in card-not-present payments.

We surveyed merchants in a wide range of verticals to identify relevant facts concerning chargebacks, disputes, and fraud. We also posed questions examining the tools, services, and solutions used for fraud detection and chargeback management.

Expanding upon our 2019 survey, we have diversified and widened the pool of participants this year across various industries, scales, and chargeback risk levels. The generated results represent a broad cross-section composed of more than 400 online, multichannel, and mobile commerce merchants across the US and UK markets.

Unsurprisingly, merchants across the globe are still reeling from the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic. The outbreak had an almost immediate impact on the payments landscape. The shutdowns resulting from Covid-19 accelerated adoption of eCommerce and other card-not-present purchasing options. In fact, research from the McKinsey Institute found that eCommerce had seen a decade’s worth of growth in just one 90-day period in 2020.

While that’s good news for merchants operating in remote channels, this new activity also brought an increased rate of chargebacks. The “new normal” spurred merchants to take proactive moves, making more use of the available tools and resources.

Friendly fraud and criminal fraud continue to be problematic for merchants. However, it’s encouraging to see that progress, albeit gradual, is being made in confronting these instances.

Finally, please note that, to reflect the fact that not every participant answered every question and to ensure clarity, all percentages have been rounded to the nearest whole number, which may cause some totals to be more or less than exactly 100 percent.

Key Takeaways

A majority of merchants reported an increase in friendly fraud between 2018 and 2021. Larger businesses noted the largest increase over this period.

A majority of merchants also reported an increase in criminal fraud between 2018 and 2021. The average reported increase was 21 percent.

Among merchants who reported a change in chargeback issuances due to Covid-19, the average response indicated an increase of 25 percent.

Although merchants responded to 43 percent of chargebacks, the average net recovery rate was just 12 percent.

Merchants still rate Covid-19 response as their top focus for 2021. The majority of respondents said they had a pessimistic outlook for the rest of 2021 as compared to 2020.

Merchants cited a lower chargeback rate and increased revenue as the top benefits of working with a third-party to manage their chargeback responses.

Despite changes imposed by card networks, the term “chargeback” is still more commonly used than “dispute.” However, the majority of respondents use the terms interchangeably.

Nine in ten respondents claimed that friendly fraud was a concern for their business. However, only 29 percent of respondents said they are successfully addressing the issue.

About the Study

Methods and Limitations

At Chargebacks911, we take pride in the wealth and accuracy of our chargeback data. Having said that, any attempts to quantify or describe chargebacks relying solely on an individual perspective can create conflicting and seemingly unreliable data, which is why we chose an additional method—separate from our interpretation or bias—to collate results.

This report attempts to understand chargebacks from the merchant perspective. It is based on a survey which included respondents from businesses of all sizes within the card-not-present (CNP) payments space. We went to great lengths to ensure that the sample set was as random, and as representative of the average merchant, as possible.

To remove bias, we deliberately avoided asking our clients to participate in the survey, instead reaching out to Censuswide. This resulted in a data set comprising 415 respondents, double the number of respondents who participated in the 2019 survey.

Despite our best efforts, the fact that this report relies on self-reported data means some degree of bias may still exist. Some participants will undoubtedly be more forthcoming and more proactive towards chargebacks: participants willing to fill out a survey, for example, are more likely to view chargebacks as a serious concern. Thus, these merchants are more likely to challenge chargebacks and to utilize chargeback remediation solutions.

Additionally, merchants were asked to provide estimates if they did not have access to specific data at the time they took the survey. In our experience it is common for merchants to underestimate the size of their chargeback problem or overestimate the effectiveness of their approach.

Demographics & Sample

Companies surveyed were split between merchants in the US (255) and UK (160). Combined, smaller companies provided the greatest number of responses. However, around 30 percent of US organizations had 500 employees or more, compared to just over 15 percent of UK companies.

Nearly 20 percent of respondents reported at least $100 million annually in online revenue. Just under 35 percent reported less than $2 million in annual revenue. The mean ticket value of a disputed transaction reported by all respondents came to $79.

One point that emerged early in the data was that chargeback issues were not restricted to known high-chargeback industries. In our 2021 report, the top risk factors associated with chargebacks were subscription billing (37 percent), followed by items with high resale value and click-and-collect transactions (both 35 percent). Most merchant respondents said at least one chargeback risk factor applied to their business; only 13% said that no risk factors applied to them.

What, if any, chargeback risk factors apply to your company?

Subscription billing
37%
Items with high resale value
35%
Buy online, pick-up in store (click-and-collect)
35%
High-risk industry
29%
Free trial offers
28%
Affiliate marketing
26%
None
13%

Chargebacks: A Brief Overview

Payment card chargebacks are considered a necessary safeguard for the protection of customers against instances of criminal fraud, merchant abuse or other issues. They are designed to ensure that customers are not held accountable for transactions they did not authorize, or charged for items they did not receive.

In recent years, chargeback rates have grown for several reasons. Customers are more aware that the dispute process works in their favor. New payment methods have also increased the risk factors for merchants, who must fight fraud from multiple fronts. Compressed chargeback processing time-frames have put additional pressure on banks, incentivizing the development of a more frictionless process. This increase in efficiency has made disputing a transaction easier than ever.

Illegitimate payment disputes, either filed by mistake or by unscrupulous cardholders who know how to abuse the system, are known as “friendly fraud.” This is a growing problem for merchants: friendly fraud accounts for the bulk of chargeback volume, as can be seen in this report’s more detailed findings.

When a cardholder disputes a charge, the merchant can either accept the chargeback and suffer the financial loss, or attempt to prove the transaction was legitimate. Merchants may contest chargebacks through a process known as representment, governed by a set of guidelines established by each card network. This allows the merchant to present compelling evidence to secure a chargeback reversal. If successful, the merchant can recover revenue that would otherwise be lost to the chargeback claim.

Both the cardholder’s bank (issuer) and the merchant’s bank (acquirer) must review the representment evidence and use the card network’s guidelines to issue a judgment. For the merchant to recover the funds, both the issuer and the acquirer must agree for a chargeback to be reversed. In the event the cardholder disagrees with the judgment, however, the issuer may initiate a second-cycle dispute.

The State of Chargebacks Today

The Covid-19 pandemic was an unprecedented event that impacted the market in many profound ways. The virus certainly had an impact on chargeback issuances and chargeback management. However, several notable takeaways from the study reflect trends that were already underway before the outbreak of the virus.

Friendly Fraud Recognized as a Major Problem

More merchants seem to be recognizing the dangers of friendly fraud in 2021. Nearly 90 percent of those surveyed claimed that the impact of friendly fraud was a concern for their business. Less than one-third of respondents said they are currently taking steps to address the problem. One-fifth of merchants went so far as to say that friendly fraud was “a major problem” for their business, but that they were not currently doing anything to address it.

Additionally, merchants in the US were almost twice as likely as those in the UK to identify friendly fraud as causing most of their chargebacks. This could be because the concept is more widely known in the US market than in the UK. Compared to the UK and Europe, the US market saw more rapid adoption of eCommerce as a purchasing channel. Consumers in the US became accustomed to eCommerce practice sooner and as a result, were earlier adopters of friendly fraud as a practice. US merchants are more familiar with friendly fraud, but that gap is likely to close as merchants become more aware of the problem outside the US.

That said, the largest companies in the survey (in terms of revenue) were more than twice as likely as the smallest merchants to be addressing their chargeback issue.

How much of a concern is friendly fraud within your business?

51%
Major
43%
Somewhat
6%
Not

Are you currently taking steps to mitigate friendly fraud within your business?

29%
Yes
71%
No

Furthermore, merchants who saw friendly fraud as a major concern were more likely to turn to a third-party solution to help address the issue. Friendly fraud was described as “a major problem” for over half of the merchants who relied solely on a third-party chargeback response. Given that these merchants tended to be more cognizant of friendly fraud as a problem, they more likely knew enough to seek assistance with chargeback management.

Both Criminal Fraud & Friendly Fraud are On the Rise

Overall, merchants noted an uptick in chargebacks resulting from both friendly fraud and criminal fraud in this year’s survey.

67 percent of merchants who tracked criminal fraud trends within their business noted an increase in fraud incidents between 2018 and 2021. Of those merchants, the average reported increase was 21 percent.

Over the last three years, has your company experienced an increase or decrease in instances of criminal fraud?

67%
Yes
33%
No
21%
Average increase in criminal fraud in the last three years (pre-pandemic)

Merchants tend to overreport criminal fraud. Internal data from Chargebacks911 suggests that criminal fraud may be responsible for fewer than 15 percent of all chargebacks.

Merchants with a higher average ticket value were more likely to cite criminal fraud as a growing problem. When asked how much criminal fraud had increased, merchants with an average ticket value between $14 and $28 reported an increase of 18 percent. Compare that to merchants with an average ticket value between $211 to $350, who cited an increase of 33 percent.

Many merchants are unable to identify friendly fraud, and attribute a significant portion of friendly fraud disputes to criminal fraud. Even so, we did notice a similar trend among chargebacks that merchants positively identified as friendly fraud.

Among merchants who noted a change in friendly fraud chargebacks between 2018 and 2021, 79 percent said that friendly fraud increased. This is in line with a consistent upward trend in friendly fraud reported by merchants in the card-not-present space over the last decade. There is a positive correlation between adoption of card-not-present purchasing options by consumers and chargeback abuse: it’s more difficult to verify cardholders’ identities, and to disprove cardholders’ dispute claims. In a post-Covid environment—with more consumers than ever selling online—it’s no surprise that friendly fraud instances would continue to grow.

Over the last three years, has your company experienced an increase or decrease in instances of friendly fraud (illegitimate chargebacks)?

79%
Increased
21%
Decreased
43%
Amount of reported increase in friendly fraud by larger merchants

Among merchants who noticed an increase in friendly fraud chargebacks between 2018 and 2021, respondents reported an average increase of 23 percent. The increase was greatly influenced by the size of the merchant, with most larger merchants (more than $70M annual revenue) reporting an increase of greater than 30 percent. It is unclear whether friendly fraud is more common for these merchants or that they are better at identifying illegitimate disputes.

Many instances of friendly fraud carry a fraud reason code. This is because cyber-shoplifters often falsely report fraud, and unrecognized charges get mistakenly categorized. At least some of the net growth in chargebacks being reported is misidentified as criminal fraud.

Chargebacks vs. Disputes

New guidelines introduced by Visa in 2018 replaced the term “chargeback” with “dispute.” Despite this change, the majority of merchants continue to use the legacy term when describing a payment dispute.

Some banks have started referring to chargebacks as disputes. Within your organization, which term is most commonly used?

Chargebacks
Both equally
Disputes

Companies with more than $70 million in annual revenue are more likely to prefer “chargeback” than their smaller counterparts.

Companies with more than $70 million in revenue

75%
Chargebacks
25%
Disputes

Companies with less than $70 million in revenue

62%
Chargebacks
38%
Disputes

Having two terms that are used interchangeably by merchants can create confusion. To make matters worse, other stakeholders like banks also tend to be inconsistent with their terminology. Some institutions (likely those that are part of the Visa network) may use “dispute” exclusively, while others prefer “chargeback.” Still others use the terms interchangeably.

At Chargebacks911, we typically use the term “dispute” to refer to the act of challenging a transaction taken on the part of the cardholder, or the cardholder’s issuing bank. In contrast, we use the term “chargeback” to refer to the technical process by which the dispute is resolved. In other words, dispute is always used as a verb, while chargeback is always used as a noun. This is the position we’ve taken in this report, so as to be consistent with other communications.

Chargeback

[noun]/* chahrj • bak /

Chargebacks are a forced transaction reversal initiated by the cardholder’s bank. They are meant as a consumer protection mechanism, but are often overutilized.

Dispute

[verb]/* dɪ • spjuːt /

A dispute is an action taken by a cardholder to challenge a transaction appearing on the cardholder’s statement.

The Impact of Covid-19 on the Chargeback Landscape

Of course, much of 2020 was spent contending with the added complications brought by the Covid-19 pandemic. Even in this complex environment, most businesses in the eCommerce space grew dramatically. 34 percent of overall merchants surveyed reported a positive impact on their business (38 percent in the US versus 26 percent in the UK).

What, if any, impact has the Covid-19 pandemic had on your business?

34%
Mostly positive
25%
Both
41%
Mostly negative

However, we noticed a substantial discrepancy across the board based on the size of the company in question. Smaller merchants were far more likely to report that Covid-19 had a negative impact on their business, while larger merchants were more likely to report a positive impact. This is likely due to larger businesses having more resources on-hand to contend with challenges arising from Covid-19. Despite their larger footprint (and thus their greater potential for loss in raw dollar value) businesses with higher annual revenue figures were able to adapt more readily and leverage the situation to their advantage. This might make it even harder for upstart players to compete in the future.

What if any impact has the Covid-19 pandemic had on your business? (% of Merchants Reporting a mostly positive impact)

Under $140,000
18%
$140,000 - $1.39M
27%
$1.4M - $13.99M
43%
$14M - $69.99M
36%
$70M - $139.99M
50%
$140M - $699.99M
47%

Another notable change from our 2019 report is the number of merchants who now accept alternate payment methods. The portion of respondents who accepted eWallets increased significantly compared to 2019: usage rose by 40 percent overall, from 47 to 66 percent, as merchants capitalized on opportunities afforded by eCommerce and cross-border trading.

Besides credit cards, which of the following payment methods do you accept?

Crypto
Up 100% from last year
eWallets
Up 40% from last year
Buy Now Pay Later

Alternative payments that are not tied to a credit or debit card account for a very small percent of total transactions.

The fact that a majority of merchants now accept eWallets is notable because many such programs (Apple Pay, Samsung Pay) allow users to take advantage of two-factor authentication, meaning that eWallets could be useful in further minimizing the impact of criminal fraud. However, since most transactions are still tied to a credit card, eWallets aren’t effective at reducing friendly fraud.

Historically, one of the main issues holding back wider adoption has been lack of consumer interest. However, the Covid-19 outbreak has led to rapid growth in consumer acceptance of contactless payments, so it makes sense that we would see merchants embrace other payment technologies.

The adoption of alternate payments even extended into digital currencies like Bitcoin. While still relatively low, the number of merchants accepting cryptocurrency as a form of payment more than doubled, growing from 6 percent in 2019 to 15 percent in 2021.

Of course, the surge in eCommerce sales that resulted from people being confined to their homes did not exist in a vacuum. Card-not-present sales, in general, tend to be more prone to chargebacks. More consumers relying on card-not-present channels has heightened the threat posed by chargebacks. In addition, many cardholders came to view chargebacks as a convenient way to recoup funds from canceled events and delayed travel plans. These factors combined led to an increase in the number of disputes with which merchants had to contend.

We also asked participants about the impact of Covid-19 on chargeback issuances. Most merchants claimed the pandemic had resulted in an increase in chargebacks.

How has the Covid-19 pandemic impacted your chargeback rates?

68%
Increased
32%
Decreased

Among merchants who reported a change, the average response indicated an increase of 25 percent. This varied across verticals: merchants in the retail space, for example, reported an average increase of 20 percent, while merchants in the ticketing and events space said chargebacks rates increased by more than 30 percent due to Covid-related factors.

25%
Average increase in chargebacks due to the pandemic

We should not anticipate the annualized rate of growth in chargeback issuances to maintain this accelerated pace, but we should consider the structural changes and much of the impact of the pandemic to be permanent.

Changes in consumer behavior, which includes an increased familiarity with the chargeback mechanism, will remain long after life has returned to “normal.” Likewise many of the adjustments banks made to facilitate the increase in disputes will also remain. Things like enabling one-click online disputes have been shown to increase the number of chargebacks filed.

Our internal data suggests that total chargeback issuances have increased by an average of roughly 20 percent each year since 2014. All indications suggest that this long-term pattern will hold true.

Given the compounding nature of these trends, 2021 will most likely prove to be another record year for both chargeback issuances and friendly fraud.

Post-Covid Chargeback Challenges

Despite ongoing emergency situations in different parts of the world, there is a general sense of optimism about our economic prospects into 2021 and beyond. Rising vaccination rates overall are encouraging, and most analysts predict a gradual recovery is underway. But, despite success in combating the pandemic, nearly half of participants said that responding to the fallout from Covid-19 will still be a major concern in 2021.

How much of a concern, if at all, is Covid-19 for your business in 2021?

45%
Maor concern
36%
Some concern
19%
Small concern

Earlier, we observed a clear trend regarding the impact of Covid-19 based on the size of the merchant respondent. Here, though, concern about the future seems to be much more evenly distributed across all revenue ranges. Where we did notice a clear distinction was when looking at merchants who managed chargebacks in-house versus those who used a third party.

Merchants who outsourced thier chargeback management to a third party were 40% less likely to rate Covid-19 as their primary business concern for 2021.

18 percent of merchants who manage chargebacks in-house said Covid-19 was their primary business concern for 2021, compared to just 11 percent of those using third-party chargeback management, who saw Covid-19 as their main concern. This suggests that merchants supported by professional expertise were more confident about the post-Covid marketplace.

Chargeback Management

We asked our survey respondents to identify their largest chargeback management challenges. The two most-cited responses were “identifying the source of each chargeback” and “preventing criminal fraud.” Roughly two-thirds of merchants cited one of these two factors as a top challenge in 2021.

These are key responses: without reliable information about chargeback sources and criminal activity, merchants end up wasting substantial resources fighting the wrong problems. It’s noteworthy, then, that the amount of time and resources respondents spent on chargeback management was also among the top five challenges.

What are your largest chargeback management challenges?

Identifying the source of chargebacks
33%
Preventing criminal fraud
32%
Contesting illegitimate chargebacks
31%
Preventing friendly fraud
29%
Decreasing my chargeback rate
28%
Allocating the time/resources required
28%
Keeping up with rule changes
24%
Lack of internal expertise
18%

Chargeback Responses: Win Rate vs. Net Recovery Rate

Our survey found that, among merchants who challenge illegitimate chargebacks, the average merchant will respond to 43 percent of claims. However, there is significant discrepancy in how that process is handled.

Even if a merchant responds to a chargeback, there’s no guarantee that they will ultimately recover their funds. The issuer may reject the merchant’s claim for a variety of reasons. This is why chargeback win rate—the percentage of reversals won compared to total chargebacks contested—is among the most important key performance indicators (KPIs) for merchants. A merchant’s chargeback win rate helps both gauge revenue loss and other chargeback-associated costs, as well as evaluate the merchant’s effectiveness at responding to chargebacks.

While many merchants recognize their chargeback win rate as a key performance indicator, most fail to understand the full picture. It’s important that merchants keep track of their response rate, base win rate, and net recovery rate as distinct KPIs.

Response Rate

The response rate measures how often a merchant challenges chargebacks by engaging in the representment process. Effectively identifying illegitimate disputes is difficult for merchants without the right technology or data. This stat, therefore, often only accounts for the most obvious and easiest to overturn instances of friendly fraud.

Excluding merchants who do not respond to any chargebacks, merchants said that, on average, they respond to 43 percent of chargebacks issued. This was a fairly stable figure, with responses remaining within a 4 percent standard deviation across all product categories, ranges of monthly chargeback issuances, and ranges of annualized revenue. The same was true for merchants in both the US and UK.

Average response rate

Win Rate

A merchant’s chargeback win rate is a basic ratio of chargebacks successfully overturned through representment as a share of total chargeback issuances. Of the chargeback win rates reported by survey respondents, 32 percent emerged as the average. This means that, of those transactions represented to an issuing bank, the bank will accept roughly one in three cases. This figure remained within that 4 percent standard deviation across all product categories and both regions. Again, merchants reporting between $70 million and $139.99 million in revenue reported better-than-average results (42 percent win rate). Merchants with more than $140 million in revenue reported a 41 percent win rate.

Average win rate

Second-CYCLE DISPUTE Rate

The second cycle dispute rate is an informal indicator tracking the number of chargebacks that, after being decided in the merchants favor, are challenged again by the customer.

If a cardholder disagrees with the initial verdict or has additional information in support of their case, the issuing bank will file an additional chargeback.

These second-cycle disputes can carry different reason codes or be for different amounts as the original. They are referred to pre-arbitration chargebacks or arbitration disputes by the different schemes. They are colloquially known, however, as “second chargebacks.”

According to survey respondents 11 percent of chargebacks initially decided in their favor were escalated to this next level by the issuing bank.

Issuing banks are less reliant on second-cycle disputes since the introduction of a Visa rule that allowed issuers to decline representments without escalating them to pre-arbitration.

Average second chargeback rate

Net Recovery Rate

The net recovery rate measures a merchant’s rate of successful representment, not as a portion of those chargebacks to which they respond, but of all chargebacks filed against them. When we look at the adjusted figure outlined above as a portion of overall chargeback issuances, we find that merchants see a net recovery rate of only 12 percent. In short, merchants will recover revenue from only one chargeback for every eight that filed—a much lower number than reported.

Net recovery rate

An effective chargeback management strategy should focus on more than just the top-line win rate. Merchants should increase their dispute rate by identifying more instances of friendly fraud. They should improve their win-rate by providing detailed and compelling representments. And they should limit their exposure to second-cycle disputes by providing accurate and indisputable evidence in their initial response.

Survey respondents that utilize a third-party chargeback management solution (only 18 percent) reported a net recovery rate of nearly 30 percent higher than those who managed disputes in-house.

18%
Merchants who relied solely on a third-party solution to handle their chargeback representments

Looking specifically at Chargebacks911 customers, our merchants experience an average net recovery rate that is two- to three-times higher than what a merchant may acheive on their own.

Chargeback Prevention

Of course, the best way decrease the costs of chargebacks is to prevent as many as possible from happening. Interestingly, even merchants who are taking preventative measures do not seem to be making full use of available prevention tools.

We asked merchants about their use and the effectiveness of three commonly utilized chargeback prevention tools.

Chargeback Alerts

Chargeback alerts, such as Ethoca Alerts or Verifi Cardholder Dispute Resolution Network (CDRN) notify merchants about pending disputes, giving them the opportunity to avoid the chargeback by providing a refund.

Merchants pay for each alert that they receive and are required to refund the transaction in order to avoid the chargeback. As a result, alerts are most commonly utilized by higher risk merchants who are trying to stay below chargeback thresholds.

Among the merchants we surveyed who identified as being high-risk, a majority claimed to be utilizing chargeback alerts. These merchants reported an average 19 percent reduction in chargebacks through the tools.

19%
Average reduction from chargeback alerts

Chargeback alerts are best utilized in combination with a robust representment strategy. For many merchants, refuting illigitimate chargebacks is a better bottom-line strategy than prevention through refunding alerts.

Network Inquiries

Network inquiry programs (Verifi Order Insights, ethoca Consumer Clarity) are the first chargeback prevention tools offered directly by the major card networks. They enable merchants to provide issuing banks with detailed information about a transaction allowing many inquiries to be resolved before escalating to a chargeback. These programs work primarily to resolve illegitimate “charge not recognized” inquiries that would otherwise turn into chargebacks with fraud reason codes.

Unlike chargeback alerts, these programs are effective at resolving disputes without requiring the merchant to provide a refund. They are therefore popular among merchants of all types. In our survey, larger merchants (+$70M annual online revenue) were most likely to be utilizing these tools due to the complex technical integration requirements.

Among those merchants, the majority reported at least a slight reduction in chargebacks, with the average decrease being just over 17%.

17%
Average reduction from network inquiries

Chargeback alerts and network inquiry programs can be used simultaneously. Solutions like the Chargebacks911 Client Portal are able to combine both tools, offering broader, more comprehensive coverage. Merchants can expect increased protection and proportionally higher return on investment by using the tools in tandem.

Criminal Fraud Prevention

When it comes to the use of third-party fraud prevention tools, merchants were more divided, with an even split (46 percent each) saying they did or did not use a third-party fraud prevention tool. The percentage of merchants employing a third-party solution tended to rise in relation to the sales volume of the company. The largest merchants were an exception to this trend, likely because they had more resources available to internalize fraud fighting (in-house fraud teams, the ability to perform manual reviews, custom fraud tools, etc.).

% of merchants that use a third-party fraud prevention tool (e.g. Sift or Kount)

Under $140,000
7%
$140,000 - $1,399,999
37%
$1.4 Millions - $13.99 Million
41%
$14 Million - $69.99 Million
38%
$70 Million - $139.99 Million
20%
$140 Million - $699.99 Million
18%

An effective fraud prevention solution is an important part of an overall chanrgeback management strategy. Merchants should, however, be careful not to overrely on pre-transaction fraud filters since many chargebacks with fraud reason codes are actually instances of friendly fraud.

Outlook: 2021 and Beyond

Looking forward to the rest of 2021 and beyond, we anticipate that more merchants will begin looking for new ways to manage fraud and chargebacks. More than one-quarter of merchants surveyed had already transitioned some or all of their fraud management processes to an external third-party, while nearly 22 percent had transitioned some or all of their chargeback management to a third-party. Compare this to 2019, when most merchants said they were not utilizing any third-party chargeback management solution.

The Future of Fraud & Chargeback Management

With this year’s survey, a combined 58 percent of merchants said they had dedicated more internal resources to fraud and chargeback management. Only 22 percent of merchants said they had made no changes to the way they dealt with fraud and chargebacks since 2019.

Have you taken any of the following steps since the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic?

We've dedicated more internal resources to chargeback management
32%
We've transitioned some or all of our fraud management to a third-party
24%
We've dedicated more internal resources to fraud management
23%
We've transitioned some or all of our chargeback management to a third-party
21%

A growing number of merchants recognize that they need outside help to protect their revenues and focus their resources more effectively.

Using a third-party service provider to help with chargebacks offers a number of benefits for merchants. The three most-cited benefits included a lower chargeback rate, increased revenue, and reassurance that the business is compliant with chargeback regulations.

What has been the greater benefit of working with a chargeback management solution provider?

Increased revenue
48%
Reduces our chargeback rate
45%
Reassurance that we are regulation compliant
41%
Normalized data and reporting
39%
Reduced time pressures within the business
31%

Merchants in 2021 also appear to be shifting focus, taking more preemptive action and seeking to prevent disputes from escalating as early as possible in the process. This is good news; merchants who are more proactive about chargeback challenges stand a better chance of preventing unnecessary chargebacks and protecting their bottom line.

Expectations Remain Bleak for Some

But despite optimism about the more widespread use of tools and tactics to manage fraud and chargebacks, there are still troubling signs ahead. Among the merchants surveyed, more than half had a pessimistic outlook for business in 2021 as opposed to 2020.

Part of this may center on concerns about customer behavior following the pandemic. For example, merchants made substantial investments to cater to card-not-present customers; these investments, however, may not pay off in the long run if customers do not stick with the new sales channels. Add to this the lingering concerns about economic recovery post-Covid, and it’s not hard to see why merchants are hesitant about their prospects.

It’s true that a number of consumers will return to their normal pre-Covid patterns in terms of shopping and purchasing. However, we can anticipate that a substantial number will continue to take advantage of the convenience offered by shopping channels like eCommerce and click-and-collect. This means that, even with uncertain economic prospects, merchants’ dire expectations for the rest of 2021 may be overly grim.

How would you characterize your expectations for your business in 2021 compared to 2020?

Extremely pessimistic
10%
Moderately pessimistic
18%
Somewhat pessimistic
25%
Somewhat optimistic
24%
Moderately optimistic
13%
Extremely optimistic
10%

One interesting point that emerged was that US merchants were over 20 percent more likely to express a pessimistic view than UK merchants. This could be indicative of more widespread confidence in the recovery underway in the UK in 2021. However, it could also reflect the economic situation in the UK, where shutdowns tended to be longer-lasting as compared to the US in 2020. Against that backdrop, optimism about a recovery could be more understandable.

Covid Response Remains a Priority

When asked about their priorities through the remainder of 2021 and into 2022, merchants cited Covid response as their number one priority, narrowly edging out the onboarding of new customers. This is surprising: with vaccination rates on the rise, one might assume that we’ve finally turned the corner on Covid-19. However, the fact that merchants continue to prioritize their Covid response—even above acquisition—suggests that a significant number of merchants anticipate the effects of the virus to linger into next year.

What, if anything, do you expect to be your primary focus in the coming year for the business?

Responding to the Covid-19 pandemic
33%
Bringing on new customers
32%
Business strength and durability
28%
Servicing existing customers
27%
Exploring new revenue streams
27%
Preventing fraud
26%
Improving internal operations
21%
Managing chargebacks
20%
Expanding to new markets
17%

The Future of Chargebacks

2020 was a challenging year for everyone in the merchant space and beyond. While chargebacks and fraud management were already pressing concerns for merchants, the impact of Covid-19 upped the ante. The effects underscore the need to stay ahead of emerging fraud trends and continually evaluate dispute management.

Covid-19 has placed new pressures on merchants in every sector, with some positive results: compared to previous years, the 2021 Field Report shows that the number of merchants utilizing available chargeback prevention tools is slowly increasing.

More work needs to be done, however, to raise awareness of the benefits these tools offer merchants. Even lacking the expertise and resources, too many businesses are still attempting to handle chargebacks solely in-house, rather than take advantage of third-party solutions. Worse, many merchants are doing nothing at all in response to customer disputes.

Increased competition in the eCommerce space over the past year highlights both the need and the value of professional chargeback management. Proven to increase a business’ bottom line, the best of these solutions allows merchants to dedicate additional resources to more profitable areas, such as business growth.

At Chargebacks911, we can assist you with all aspects of chargeback management. From automated chargeback responses that mitigate overall risk of illegitimate chargebacks, to helping recover more revenue from chargeback fraud, Chargebacks911 offers the most comprehensive, end-to-end chargeback management available, backed by the only performance-based ROI guarantee in the industry.

If you have questions concerning prevention, representment, or any other chargeback management issue, contact us today.

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