Learn how to format the most convincing evidence to challenge a dispute.
When a cardholder disputes a payment with their bank, they must provide evidence to support their claim. In many cases, the bank’s goal is to protect their customer from having to pay for something they didn’t authorize or feel was misrepresented or damaged.
As the seller, you have the right to counter the cardholder’s claim and provide evidence that supports your case. While Zip doesn’t influence the ultimate outcome of the bank’s decision, our goal is to help you defend the dispute—we base the best practices that we provide here on our experience resolving disputes.
Keep your evidence relevant to the dispute reason and to the point
Card issuers review thousands of dispute responses every day. Writing a long explanation to them isn’t going to make your responses more convincing. Similarly, providing evidence about your clearly stated return policy isn’t relevant for a dispute claiming that the customer never received the product. Instead, describe clearly and concisely why the claim is unreasonable and how your evidence proves that, using a neutral and professional tone. For example:
Jenny Rosen purchased [product] from our company on [date]. We shipped the product on [date] to the address provided by the customer, and it was delivered on [date], as shown in the tracking file provided, so the claim that the product was not received is not true.
You can investigate the dispute while collecting evidence. For example, you can take a look at Google Maps and Street View to see where your delivery took place, or check social media like Facebook or LinkedIn to help establish the customer as the legitimate cardholder.
Many businesses also include email correspondence or texts with their customer, but be aware that these exchanges don’t verify identity. If you’re going to include them, make sure to include only the relevant information (for example, if you’re going to include a long email thread, redact any text that only quotes previous emails).
Your evidence should be factual, professional, and concise. While providing little evidence is a problem, overwhelming the card issuer with unnecessary information can have the same effect.
Include proof of service or delivery
Claims from cardholders that products or services weren’t delivered, were defective or unsatisfactory, or not as described are some of the top dispute reasons. Assuming the product was not faulty, was as described, was shipped and delivered prior to the dispute date, and so on, you’ll want to provide proof of service or delivery.
For a merchandise purchase, provide proof of shipment and delivery that includes the full delivery address, not just the city and postal code verification.
If your customer provides a “Ship to” name that differs from their own (for example, a gift purchase), be prepared to provide documentation explaining why they’re different. While it’s common practice to purchase and ship to an address that doesn’t match the verified billing address for the card, this is an additional dispute risk.
If your business provides digital goods, include evidence such as an IP address or system log proving the customer downloaded the content or used your software or service.
Include a copy of your terms of service and refund policy
When it comes to disputes, fine print matters. When it comes to returns or refunds, it’s critical to provide proof that your customer agreed to and understood your terms of service at checkout, or didn’t follow your policies. A clean screenshot of how you present your terms of service or other policies during checkout is an important addition to your evidence—it’s not enough to include a text copy of these only.
Combine files of the same evidence type
You must specify an evidence type for each file you upload, and you can only submit one piece of evidence per type. For example, if you have several items representing communication with your customer (email messages, text screenshots, phone transcripts, and so on), combine them into a single file, because you can only identify one file as Customer communication.
Formatting documents and images to upload
Include large, clear images for review. There are limitations on the acceptable file types and the combined file size.
- Only PDF, JPEG, or PNG file types are accepted
- The combined file size can’t be more than 4.5MB
- The combined page count must be less than 50 pages
- You can compress your files with tools such as Smallpdf
When submitting documents or images as evidence, use the following recommendations to make sure they can remain legible:
- Use a 12 point font or larger
- Make sure that documents are US Letter or A4 size, in portrait orientation (you can still add screenshots to your documents in landscape orientation)
- Use bold text, callouts, or arrows to draw attention to pertinent information
- Avoid using color highlighting
When uploading screenshots:
- Crop the screenshot to the area of interest and circle any key components (for example, delivery confirmation or signature)
- Use the text fields in the dispute evidence form to describe what the image contains and how it supports your response
The card issuer will consider a response incomplete and won’t review it if it contains any illegible text or data.
You can accept a dispute, effectively agreeing with the cardholder that the dispute was valid for the reason given. Accepting a dispute isn’t considered an admission of wrongdoing and is sometimes the most appropriate response. The customer has already received their refund through the dispute process—if you agree with the refund, it’s best to accept the dispute. This is the action you should take if you don’t intend to respond and submit evidence. Although accepting disputes doesn’t negatively affect your business any further, it’s not a viable alternative to an effective refund or returns policy. Disputes incur a dispute fee and the fee is not returned if the dispute is accepted.
For disputes that are the result of a misunderstanding, your customer can tell their card issuer that they no longer dispute the transaction. It’s still important that you submit evidence to show that the payment was valid, however, and to make sure that the card issuer knows you’re not accepting the dispute.
In cases where you agree that the customer should keep the disputed funds, accept the dispute rather than ask the cardholder to withdraw the dispute for a regular refund.
Disputes on partially refunded payments
While uncommon, a customer can dispute a payment for the full amount even if they’ve already received a partial refund (for example, a refund of a smaller amount that has been agreed upon). We understand this can be frustrating as it leaves you responsible for the partial refund you’ve already processed and the full amount disputed, though card issuers are very willing to rectify this situation.
Even if you plan to accept the unrefunded portion of the dispute, it’s important for you to provide evidence of the partial refund in your response. This should include the amount and date of the refund, and even a screenshot of the refund information from the Merchant Portal (this is known as a “credit issued” response).
In most cases, the card issuer cancels the original dispute and then creates a separate one for the corrected amount. On Zip, we use the existing dispute to track the overall outcome. If the dispute is fully resolved in your favor, you receive the entire amount back. If it’s not, you only receive the partially refunded amount. In this case, the dispute’s status is set to lost.