Chargeback Management

What to Do When You Get a Retrieval Request

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Table of Contents

  1. What Is a Retrieval Request?
  2. How Does the Retrieval Request Process Work?
  3. How Do You Respond to a Retrieval Request?
  4. The Future of Retrieval Requests

Few things are as frustrating for merchants as receiving a chargeback and knowing that if the bank knew the facts of the dispute, they never would have granted it. Customers often receive chargebacks based on claims that are easy to disprove, and even baseless claims result in chargeback fees for the merchant.

Sometimes, however, issuers will reach out to merchants in response to a cardholder dispute and attempt to gather some additional facts from the merchant’s side before proceeding with a chargeback. These inquiries are known as retrieval requests, and they can provide merchants with a chance to set the record straight and avoid a chargeback. What are retrieval requests, and what do merchants need to know about responding to them?

New call-to-actionFriendly fraud chargebacks are a big problem for merchants, accounting for a high percentage of overall chargebacks.

Merchants can and should fight back against illegitimate chargebacks, but compiling evidence for representment can take more time and energy than busy merchants can easily spare.

Not every chargeback will be preceded by a retrieval request, but when an issuer does send you one, it’s worth making the effort to provide an informative and timely response. If the information provided can enlighten a confused customer or show the bank that the customer's claims are false, you will have prevented a chargeback.

Retrieval requests are sometimes known as “soft chargebacks” because if you don’t respond in time, the bank will likely go ahead with the chargeback. This isn’t always the case—nor is it a guarantee that you can always prevent a chargeback by responding to the retrieval request—but it does serve to remind merchants what is potentially at stake when a retrieval request is left unaddressed.

What Is a Retrieval Request?

A retrieval request is an inquiry from an issuing bank requesting information from a merchant about a transaction. They're often sent after a cardholder questions a charge, but sometimes issuers will initiate retrieval requests because they’ve discovered an error in a transaction that was submitted.

Cardholders can generate retrieval requests for various reasons. The cardholder may be contacting their issuer because they don’t recognize a transaction, don’t agree with the amount of the transaction, or have an issue with some other element of the transaction details.

The cardholder may be calling out of genuine confusion, or they may be engaging in deliberate chargeback fraud. Sometimes, the cardholder is calling not because they intend to dispute the transaction, but because they need additional information for their records.

When the issuer believes that the merchant is in possession of the needed information, they may send a retrieval request.

How Does the Retrieval Request Process Work?

The issuing bank sends retrieval requests to the merchant's acquirer. If the acquirer is able to provide the requested information without contacting the merchant, they may do so. If not, the acquirer will forward the retrieval request to the merchant.

Many acquirers and payment processors will charge merchants a fee when they receive a retrieval request. If you’re not sure how much your retrieval fees are or when they apply, check your documentation or ask your provider.

Acquirers typically have between 20 to 30 days to respond to a retrieval request. If they forward the request to their merchant, the deadline doesn’t get extended, so it's important for merchants to respond to them as quickly as possible. If a retrieval request isn’t answered in time, the issuer may escalate to issuing a chargeback.

Once the acquirer has received the requested information, they will send it over to the issuer. The issuer may use this information to jog the cardholder’s memory over an unrecognized transaction or validate some of the disputed details. However, if the additional information does not address the substance of the cardholder’s dispute, the issuer may still choose to grant them a chargeback.

Some of the data typically sought in a retrieval request includes the cardholder’s name and account number, the amount and date of the transaction, and the authorization response code.

How Do You Respond to a Retrieval Request?

Merchants should carefully review the retrieval request to be sure they understand what information the issuer is looking for. Before sending the applicable documents to their acquirer, merchants should make sure they're clear, legible, and in a standard file format like PDF.

Download the eGuide, 4 Reasons to Hire a Chargeback Management CompanyWhen a retrieval request is forwarded to you by your acquirer, you should make responding to it a priority. If you can avoid a chargeback, you will have saved the revenue from the sale, dodged a costly chargeback fee, and prevented an increase to your chargeback rate.

Review the retrieval request carefully. While many of them will simply request copies of standard transaction documents, you should do your best to read and understand the nature of the request and the underlying reason for the inquiry. In some cases, it may be beneficial to provide information about the cardholder’s IP address, descriptions of the products or services they purchased, shipping and delivery confirmation, or other contextual details.

When receipt copies are requested, make sure that everything you send back is clean and legible. Electronic copies are best, but if you have to scan printed receipts, make sure the scans are large, high-quality, and easy to read.

The Future of Retrieval Requests

Are retrieval requests soon to be a thing of the past? Things seem to be headed that way. Visa has phased out retrieval requests entirely in favor of the new Order Insight system. Mastercard has also largely stopped using retrieval requests, with the exception of certain prepaid cards.

For now, Discover and American Express still use retrieval requests. The fact that these networks typically also act as the issuing bank for their cards means they could choose to hold onto the retrieval request system for a while yet.

On the other hand, if these networks invest in the development of a new system for retrieving transaction information like the ones now used by Visa and Mastercard, we may see them phase out retrieval requests as well.

These new systems could use a process similar to a retrieval request but managed through an online platform, allowing information to be exchanged much more quickly. They could also develop a system similar to Visa's Order Insight, which integrates with a merchant's system to automatically send purchase details to banks who request them, eliminating the issue of response time altogether.

Retrieval requests are a good thing for merchants, as they provide an opportunity to present your compelling evidence to fight a chargeback without having to go through the expense of dealing with an actual chargeback. It may be sad to see them on their way out, but the good news is that they’re being replaced with more proactive internal systems that issuers and acquirers can use to validate questionable transactions in more automated and efficient ways.

Merchants who really love early warning systems can still make use of chargeback alert systems offered by third-party vendors like Verifi and Ethoca, but the best ways to avoid chargebacks that result from customer confusion are to use clear billing descriptors and get set up with new tools like Order Insight.

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