July 13 2009 by Ellen Roseman
If a store closes its doors, you don’t want to be out of pocket if you have paid for merchandise and not received it. You can protect yourself by putting down a small deposit and using a credit card, rather than cash or a debit card.
I recently wrote about Neoset, a Toronto furniture chain that sold custom-made furniture from Greece and Quebec. Customers were given endless excuses for why their orders hadn’t arrived. Then, one day, the stores were shuttered and the phone lines went dead.
In my column, I said Visa and MasterCard could provide refunds when items were paid for and not delivered. Both have policies that ensure customers are made whole in such cases.
Then, I started getting complaints that people were being denied refunds. Their credit card issuers said they were out of luck because they had a limited window of only 60 or 90 days after payment to get their money back.
This is not true. The financial institutions that issue credit cards are getting the facts wrong. They’re misinterpreting the generous refund policies designed to help consumers caught in a retail crunch.
So, let’s get the story straight. Here’s a quote from Julie Wilson, a spokeswoman for MasterCard Canada, and reiterated by Amy Cole, a spokeswoman for Visa Canada:
MasterCard provides its card issuers with 120 days from the latest anticipated delivery date to dispute a charge. Simply put, it is non-receipt of merchandise.
Similar to the airlines, if a merchant goes out of business, and you have used your MasterCard credit card, then you are covered on any services or products not received. That includes deposits.
So if you have purchased a wedding gift using a registry, and the goods were never received, then your card-issuing financial institution would have 120 days from the date that you were told it would be delivered to dispute the charge.
Let’s say I bought something on April 3, 2009 and the merchant tells me that I will have it in my hands on Oct. 2, 2009. The 120 days starts Oct. 2, 2009.
It’s important to keep receipts and records of any communication about delivery dates. Then, if your credit card issuer says no, keep fighting up the chain. Go tol the head office of Visa or MasterCard for confirmation that a refund is allowed.
I predict we’ll see more cases of business failure and non-delivery of orders before this recesssion ends. If credit cards want to maintain their reputation as being more secure than cash, they had better train their issuers to tell the truth about their refund policies.