Best Practices For ECommerce
Thank you for choosing START Merchant Services as your eCommerce Merchant Account provider. For your Merchant Account to be APPROVED quickly and efficiently, clearly display your contact info, as well as your intended Refund, Exchange, Warranty and/or Cancellation policies on your Web site where your customers can review them.
Here is a checklist of requirements for your Website (per Visa/MasterCard regulations) for review:
- Refund/ Cancellation Policy
- Terms and Conditions
- Definition/ list of products and pricing information
- Customer Service phone number and hours of operations
- Shipping and delivery information
- 128-bit SSL (usually provided by shopping cart/gateway)
Customer disputes and chargebacks are very costly to eCommerce merchants in terms of both time and money. Disputes are time-consuming to resolve, and when left unresolved…turn into expensive chargebacks! Chargebacks typically cost $25 per incident, and you will also lose the funds associated with the sale, which must be paid back to the cardholder…namely your customer! Retrieval Requests also sometimes occur; this is a request by the issuing bank for a copy of the signed charge ticket and carries a fee of $10 per incident. Bear in mind, as a merchant accepting credit cards for your goods or services you have agreed to abide by Visa/MC’s rules which (perhaps unfairly) are often slanted in the favor of your customer! There are three primary causes for cardholder disputes:
- Customer expectations not met due to misinterpretation of products or services.
- Merchant’s Doing Business As(DBA) name was not recognized on the cardholder’s statement. Click here for suggestions on how to avoid this issue.
- Refund/Exchange/Warranty/Cancellation policies missing, unclear or unreasonable.
All three can be effectively addressed with clear and specific Product/Services info and clear Policies and Procedures. To learn more about Chargeback procedures and preventing fraud, click here.
It is important to keep in mind that as a Visa/MC merchant you have agreed to abide by Visa/MC’s regulations. To that end, you sometimes must throw “common sense” out the window when creating “policies” and marketing your products or services.
Visa/MC will allow any cardholder to chargeback a purchase if the customer can demonstrate to ANY degree that they have not received the products or services promised by your company in the quantity, quality & time frame promised.
In other words, if your company promises product or services delivery on Tuesday, but the product or service is not delivered until Wednesday (a day late), that cardholder can probably charge that sale back with little you can do about it.
Likewise, if the quantity or quality of products or services delivered is not exactly as described on your site or in other marketing materials, the cardholder will be allowed to chargeback the purchase.
It is not always fair, but if anything is left unclear, it almost always falls to the favor of the cardholder. For your protection and success, we strongly encourage you to spell everything out clearly and take nothing for granted, even the obvious.
We talked above about the importance of clarity and specifics when marketing your products or services; the same holds true for your policies regarding refunds, exchanges, warranties or cancellations.
These policies must be clearly and specifically spelled out to avoid disputes with cardholders. If there are any holes or “gray areas” in your policies, Visa/MC will find in favor of the cardholder in most disputes.
Likewise, if policies are altogether absent, it is assumed there is no policy. For example, if there is no posted and/or printed refund policy, it is assumed the cardholder may return products or services for a full refund, forever!
On the other hand, please don’t confuse no policy with “no refunds”, “no warranties,” etc. It is perfectly acceptable for your policy to state there are no refunds, or no warranties, or no cancellations, etc., assuming it is clearly spelled out. In fact, these policies provide the greatest amount of protection to you as they limit a cardholder’s recourse if they change their mind about your product or service.
Click here to view generic examples of Refund/Exchange, Order Cancellation, Warranty, Termination of Service, and Out of Stock Policies and Procedures. We also encourage you to use Google to review other eCommerce merchant’s Policies and Procedures. These examples can help you understand the types of policies you can put in place; however, they are not guaranteed to eliminate disputes and chargebacks.
ECommerce Best Practices “Tips”
- Include your printed Policies and Procedures with all shipped products.
- Make sure you are implementing AVS (address verification) for all Virtual Terminal and Web site purchases. You want to verify the billing address, not the shipping address. For maximum security, ship to the billing address whenever possible and get your customers to sign a receipt.
- Display your customer service phone number and support e-mail address in prominent positions on your website and promote their use.
- Be cautious of first-time orders with large quantities and overnight delivery requests.
- When taking cardholder information, ask for the card type (“Visa” or “Discover” for example) not just the card number. Fraudulent usage may occur when a criminal has stolen just the card number yet doesn’t know the type of card.
- Always obtain and submit actual valid expiration dates.
- Watch for repeat orders in a short period of time. Fraudsters may process a “trial balloon” transaction and if accepted, can use the card for multiple purchases.
- Pay close attention to orders from free e-mail accounts such as Yahoo or Hotmail. These are commonly used by those who wish to hide their identity.
Protect your reputation as a safe place to do business!
START Merchant Services offers these Policies and Procedures as examples only. We encourage you to develop appropriate Policies and Procedures that best fit your business type and model.Refund/Exchange Policy (example)We offer a 30-day Money Back Guarantee on almost every product we offer. Please call customer service at
YourSite.com (print RMA number Here) Post Office Box XYZ City, State 12345-6789
NOTE: Refunds sent with no RMA number or mailed to the call center will be returned to sender.
Order Cancellation Policy (example)
Please submit any cancellation via e-mail to CancelOrder@YourSite.com or call on our business phone at 800-000-0000.E-mail cancellations must contain the following: First name, last name, order number, and e-mail address. This information must be identical to the information originally submitted on your order. Please provide contact information so that we may contact you if we have questions about canceling your order.Every effort will be made to accommodate the cancellation of your order, providing your order has not been charged and/or shipped out. In the event that a cancellation was submitted (via e-mail or phone), and your order was shipped out after, we will gladly refund the complete balance charged including shipping. However, if the cancellation was documented as received after the order was shipped, we will refund the merchandise total less shipping.
Warranty Policy (example)
- Shipping Costs – Customer assumes all costs in shipping to us, and we assume the cost in shipping back to the customer. All replacement/repaired products are shipped UPS Ground unless a rush is requested. The cost of such a shipping upgrade is to be paid by the customer prior to shipment.
- Warranty Procedure – We suggest you contact our tech support team first by posting a question in our Help Desk to determine whether the item is indeed defective before shipping. Then make an online return merchandise authorization (RMA) request. See Return Policy for more details. No phone call or e-mail is necessary!
- 90-Day Warranty – All products (unless specifically stated otherwise), carry an implied, industry-standard 90-Day warranty against defects due to manufacturing or failure. Warranty does not include any use of the product that does not fall into the designed use of the product as intended by the manufacturer.
- One-Year Warranty – All parts (except refurbished items) come with a warranty against manufacturer defect or failure for a period of one year from the date of purchase. This warranty covers replacement or repair of the product, which is determined by availability, or vendor, and the time of purchase. Replacement is often used within 30 days after purchase with the same product or like product when direct replacement is unavailable. Repair is often necessary for items purchased more than 30 days prior.
- Manufacturer Warranty – Manufacturers sometimes offer additional warranty for the following products: (…name products here). Customers should contact the manufacturer after the warranty expires.
- Lifetime Warranty – Lifetime warranty is given to all (name products here). This warranty is for replacement of like items only. Lifetime warranty does not cover items out of production if YourSite.com no longer stocks them. This warranty is valid only for the original buyer but not transferable. (Lifetime is defined as the lifetime of the product on the market. Outdated technology is not covered by a lifetime warranty if the item is no longer available on the common market as a new product.)
Out of Stock Policy (example)
The most important thing to keep in mind when ordering is that our stock balances fluctuate throughout the day with sales demand and stock that we receive from the manufacturers. Items are constantly being sold and our stock is constantly being replenished. If the item is identified as “Out of Stock”, we can special order the item for you and ship it as soon as we get it. Most items ship within 2 weeks.
Just because the item you ordered is NOT identified as out-of-stock does not necessarily mean that it will be in-stock at the moment you order it. We will notify you if the item you ordered is out-of-stock. We first try to reply via e-mail and give you 3 days to reply. If we have not heard from you, we will then try to call you at the numbers you provide with your order. Be sure to give us your current e-mail address and phone number.
Some items are listed for sale on our web site that have not been released from the manufacturer yet. We place these items on the web site so that consumers may pre-order the items. Preorders are reserved with payment up front on a first come, first served basis. You may also request to be placed on a “notify list” and we will let you know when products are in-stock and available for delivery. Be advised that prepaid orders always get priority for delivery.
Many out-of-stock items are excellent products and are available for purchase, but we do not always stock these items in inventory. We will be happy to special order these items for you in a timely fashion. Again, most items ship within 2 weeks.
Term/Termination of Web Hosting Agreement (example)
- The initial term of this Agreement shall be as set forth in the Order Form (the “Initial Term”). The Initial Term shall begin upon commencement of the Services to Customer. After the Initial Term, this Agreement shall automatically renew. ADDITIONALLY, AFTER THE INITIAL TERM, YOU ACKNOWLEDGE, AGREE AND AUTHORIZE YOUR-SITE.COM TO AUTOMATICALLY BILL AND/OR CHARGE ON YOUR CREDIT CARD FOR SUCCESSIVE TERMS OF EQUAL LENGTH AS THE INITIAL TERM UNLESS TERMINATED OR CANCELLED BY EITHER PARTY AS PROVIDED IN THIS SECTION. The Initial Term and all successive renewal periods shall be referred to, collectively, as the “Term.”
- This Agreement may be terminated
- by either party by giving the other party thirty (30) days prior written notice (subject to an early cancellation fee payable by Customer as provided below),
- by YOUR-SITE.COM in the event of nonpayment by Customer,
- by YOUR-SITE.COM, at any time, without notice, if, in YOUR-SITE.COM’s sole and absolute discretion and/or judgment, Customer is in violation of any term or condition of the this Agreement and related agreements, AUP, or Customer’s use of the Services disrupts or, in YOUR-SITE.COM’s sole and absolute discretion and/or judgment, could disrupt, YOUR-SITE.COM’s business operations and/or
- If you cancel this Agreement prior to the end of the Initial Term or any Term thereafter,
- you shall be obligated to pay all fees and charges accrued prior to the effectiveness of such cancellation,
- YOUR-SITE.COM shall refund to you all pre-paid fees for basic hosting services (shared, dedicated and/or managed) for the full months remaining after effectiveness of cancellation (i.e., no partial month fees shall be refunded), less any setup fees and any discount applied for prepayment,
- you shall be obligated to pay 100% of all charges for all Services for each month remaining in the Term (other than basic hosting fees as provided in (ii) above) and (iii) you shall pay an early cancellation fee of $XYZ. Any cancellation request shall be effective thirty (30) days after receipt by YOUR-SITE.COM unless a later date is specified in such request.
- YOUR-SITE.COM may terminate this Agreement
- if the Services are prohibited by applicable law, or become impractical or unfeasible for any technical, legal or regulatory reason, by giving Customer as much prior notice as reasonably practicable or
- immediately by giving written notice to Customer, if YOUR-SITE.COM determines in good faith that Customer’s use of the Customer Web site or the Customer Content violates any term or condition. If YOUR-SITE.COM cancels this Agreement prior to the end of the Term for your breach of this Agreement and related agreements, the Customer’s use of the Services disrupts, YOUR-SITE.COM shall not refund to you any fees paid in advance of such cancellation and you shall be obligated to pay all fees and charges accrued prior to the effectiveness of such cancellation; further, you shall be obligated to pay 100% of all charges for all Services for each month remaining in the Term and YOUR-SITE.COM shall have the right to charge you an administrative fee of $50.00.
- Upon termination of this Agreement for any cause or reason whatsoever, neither party shall have any further rights or obligations under this Agreement, except as expressly set forth herein. Termination of this Agreement and retention of pre-paid fees and charges shall be in addition to, and not be in lieu of, any other legal or equitable rights or remedies to which YOUR-SITE.COM may be entitled.