Leadership / 04.15.20
Giving Credit to Credit Card Companies in the Time of Coronavirus
In the coronavirus era, a lot of people have grown fond of saying, “We’re all in this together” or some variation. But when it comes to the major credit card companies, some venue operators may be wondering, “Are we really on the same side?”, especially with so many events canceled and ticket buyers clamoring for refunds (or at least clear guidance on where they stand payment-wise).
Visa, Mastercard and Discover have all released bulletins with guidance for merchants on COVID-19 related disputes. American Express, meanwhile, has extended deadlines for businesses to respond to card member disputes. “This is helpful since many venues don’t have access to physical evidence like signed charge slips or contracts while they are working from home,” Holly Sandberg, Paciolan’s Credit and Fraud Manager. “It also allows more time to try to resolve disputes directly with customers. You must hunt a bit more on the Amex site. I recommend reading their consumer-facing language on disputes during the COVID-19 impact. There is info there that is beneficial for businesses, as well.”
Mandi Grimm, Director of Training and fraud expert for ETix.com, applauds the various credit card companies for making changes that acknowledge the impact of COVID-19 for both travel and entertainment. “While more changes may still occur,” she says, “they have responded and made policy changes faster than I have seen previously.” Grimm would like to see them educate their issuers even more about the new guidelines and encourage them to be followed before issuing a chargeback.
Sandberg agrees, adding, “I would also love to see more of an effort to ensure consistency from issuing banks when they file disputes on behalf of their cardholders. There’s a lot of self-policing expected from consumers, merchants, acquirers, issuing banks, etc. And some are better than others at staying on top of changes and playing by the rules. This is especially true of disputes that get incorrectly coded as fraud when they’re about an issue related to customer service or to refund, postponement and cancellation policies. Too many fraud-coded disputes can put a merchant at risk for potentially costly monitoring programs. Businesses need to be proactive about fraud mitigation, but there should be more collaboration within the entire ecosystem.”
Sandberg stresses the importance of knowing credit card companies’ rules and regulations. She wryly acknowledges that they are “not exactly page-turners,” but they contain vital information on managing disputes, chargeback representment rights, and the venue’s responsibilities related to fraud and chargebacks.
“They can be downloaded from each card brand’s website,” she says. “I think everyone should have some understanding of the basics even if you have a provider who handles this on your behalf. For changes and updates, especially those related to COVID-19, have conversations with your processor, your ticketing provider or whoever should be getting you up-to-date information. Make sure they are passing along everything they receive from the card brands. Also, if you have a direct relationship with your payment processor, now is a great time to familiarize yourself with the terms of that agreement. When you hit information overload, reach out to someone like me or people in your network who can help.”
Grimm, meanwhile, expresses the continued need for patience and understanding. “This is uncharted territory for us all and, to varying degrees, we are all suffering,” she says. “The credit card companies are evaluating the situation and making changes and updates as deemed necessary to keep the systems in place and everyone’s best interest in consideration. Because this is still an evolving situation, it is important for venues to monitor the card brand sites for updates to their policies.”
Meanwhile, the pandemic is triggering anger at ticketing companies like Ticketmaster and StubHub. Online, some fans are expressing their impatience over not being able to get refunds for concerts that have been postponed, many of which have no rescheduled dates in sight. In their view, ticketing outlets are being tightfisted at a time of worldwide crisis, holding billions of dollars in consumers’ cash that people now need to make rent, pay the mortgage, and buy food and other essentials.
Their ire is being stoked by the sense that some vendors altered their refund policies mid-crisis to avoid repaying the public. Fans point to Ticketmaster recently adjusting the language on its website. A few weeks ago, it said that people can obtain refunds “if your event is postponed, rescheduled or canceled.” Now, it only lists cancellation as a basis for getting ticket money back. More recently, a Wisconsin man sued StubHub after the company dropped its refund policy and began offering coupons worth 120% of what customers had paid for canceled events instead.
Grimm says it is too early to tell what effect the secondary ticketing market’s problems are having on the primary market. “This is still unfolding,” she says, “and I think there is a lot we still don’t know and may not for a few months. I think everyone is closely reviewing their terms and conditions and purchase policies to determine the best possible plan of action to accommodate everyone.”
Both ticketing professionals interviewed for this article concede that confusion was inevitable when so many sports leagues, concert performers, big and small theatres, and others nationwide and around the globe started postponing and outright cancelling games, shows and other ticketed events one right after another. The domino effect early on was dizzying and unprecedented.
“Many of us are still trying to understand and learn the new guidelines for chargebacks, while we still have chargebacks coming in that need to be responded to,” Grimm says. “The guidelines are changing, and it is hard to keep track of the most current information and to educate everyone who needs to be made aware of the updates. That is complicated enough in normal times. But it is harder now when you add the additional stresses of the pandemic to the situation.”
“The industry is dealing with new ‘What ifs’ by the day and sometimes by the hour,” Sandberg says. “I think confusion is inevitable, but I’m inspired by the countless hours and dedication I’ve seen put into efforts to minimize that confusion and work toward a day when seats are filled and crowds are cheering again. Everyone is asking for patience while this situation evolves, and it may not always grab the headlines. But a lot of the general public are reaching out to venues to say, ‘We’re with you, we get it and we’ll be there when your doors open again.’”
You May Also Like
Want news like this delivered to your inbox weekly? Subscribe to the Access Weekly newsletter, your ticket to industry excellence.
Tags: Consumer Preferences , COVID-19 , Coronavirus