What to Do When You Get a Retrieval Request
Few things are as frustrating as receiving a chargeback and knowing that if the bank knew the facts of the dispute, they never would have granted it. Sometimes, 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 last-minute chance to set the record straight and avoid a chargeback without having to go through the representment process. What are retrieval requests, and what do merchants need know about responding to them?
“Friendly 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.
Retrieval requests are sometimes known as “soft chargebacks” because if you don’t provide a sufficient response, they’re sure to turn into real chargebacks in a short matter of time. 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 are Retrieval Requests?
A retrieval request is an inquiry that originates with an issuing bank. Many are sent in response to cardholder requests, but sometimes issuers will initiate retrieval requests because they’ve discovered discrepancies or errors in transactions that were submitted for processing. For example, the merchant may have submitted illegible receipts. Fraud investigations may also trigger retrieval requests.
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 engaged 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. Issuers are permitted to make retrieval requests any time within 18 months of the original date of sale.
How Does the Retrieval Request Process Work?
Once the issuer has determined that they need to send out a retrieval request, they will send it directly to the merchant’s acquiring bank. 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.
May acquirers and payment processors will charge merchants a retrieval fee at this point. 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 timeframe doesn’t get extended, so it behooves merchants to respond to them as quickly as possible. If a retrieval request isn’t answered in time, the issuer may automatically advance it to become 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 Should Merchants Respond to Retrieval Requests?
When a retrieval request is forwarded to you by your acquirer, you should, if at all possible, 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.
Note that retrieval requests are becoming less common these days. American Express and Discover still rely on them, but Visa has mandated the use of internal systems like the Visa Merchant Purchase Inquiry instead and Mastercard only allows them as an option on certain prepaid card brands. Consequently, fewer issuers are still using retrieval requests.
Are retrieval requests soon to be a thing of the past? Things seem to be headed that way. 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 merchant descriptors and transparent billing practices.
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.