What are Disputes and Chargebacks?


Jun 5, 2024 by Cal Zielinko

In the world of commerce and finance, disputes and chargebacks are critical concepts that can significantly impact businesses, especially those handling high volumes of transactions. Understanding these terms, their processes, and how to manage them is essential for maintaining financial stability and customer satisfaction.


A dispute occurs when a customer questions the validity of a transaction recorded on their credit or debit card statement. This can happen for various reasons, including:

  • Unauthorized Transactions: The customer did not authorize the charge.
  • Billing Errors: The amount charged is incorrect, or the transaction was duplicated.
  • Service/Product Issues: The customer did not receive the product or service, or it was not as described.

When a dispute is raised, the merchant is typically notified and has the opportunity to provide evidence to validate the transaction. Effective dispute management involves prompt responses and thorough documentation to resolve issues swiftly.


A chargeback is a reversal of a transaction initiated by the customer’s issuing bank. It is a forced refund that occurs when a dispute is resolved in the customer’s favor or when the bank decides that the transaction is invalid. Chargebacks are designed to protect consumers from fraudulent or incorrect charges, but they can pose significant challenges for businesses.

Common reasons for chargebacks include:

  • Fraudulent Transactions: Unauthorized use of the customer’s payment information.
  • Customer Dissatisfaction: The product or service was not delivered as expected.
  • Technical Issues: Errors during the transaction process.

The Chargeback Process

  1. Initiation: The customer contacts their bank to dispute a transaction.
  2. Investigation: The bank reviews the dispute and gathers information from the customer and the merchant.
  3. Decision: The bank decides whether to process a chargeback based on the evidence.
  4. Resolution: If a chargeback is issued, the transaction amount is withdrawn from the merchant’s account and credited back to the customer.

Impact on Businesses

Chargebacks can have several adverse effects on businesses, including:

  • Financial Losses: Direct loss of revenue from refunded transactions.
  • Fees: Additional fees imposed by banks and payment processors for handling chargebacks.
  • Reputation Damage: Negative impact on the merchant’s reputation and customer trust.
  • Increased Costs: Higher operational costs associated with managing and disputing chargebacks.

Preventing Disputes and Chargebacks

To minimize the occurrence of disputes and chargebacks, businesses can adopt the following best practices:

  • Clear Communication: Ensure that product descriptions, pricing, and policies are transparent and accurate.
  • Customer Service: Provide excellent customer service to address concerns and resolve issues before they escalate to disputes.
  • Transaction Monitoring: Implement robust fraud detection and prevention measures to identify and mitigate suspicious activities.
  • Documentation: Maintain comprehensive records of transactions, communications, and delivery confirmations to provide evidence when disputes arise.


Understanding disputes and chargebacks is crucial for businesses to manage financial risks and maintain customer satisfaction. By implementing preventive measures and handling disputes efficiently, businesses can reduce the likelihood of chargebacks and safeguard their revenue and reputation.