Chargebacks: Protecting You From Scammy Online Sellers

Ashley ordered a special occasion dress from the website of a manufacturer in China. She didn’t realize that the company was in China, despite the “About Us” on their site saying so, and the deeply mangled English on display on many of the pages. But no matter–sometimes shopping direct on Chinese sites can be a pleasant money-saving experience. This wasn’t. Her dress looked nothing like the photo of what she ordered, and the company will only refund her if she ships the fluffy dress back to China. That will cost $138, when the dress cost only $142. She’s not the only customer in this bind. So what should she do?

Ordering factory-direct in a very literal sense might seem like a good deal, but remember that you give up protections that you’d get shopping in the US…such as the ability to complain to the Federal Trade Commission about false advertising.

I ordered a dress from [a small clothing site] thinking I was going to receive the one that they advertised on the website, the one that I paid for. When the dress comes in, it is not the same dress, It doesn’t even look like it- let’s just say this dress is very cheaply made, and it’s missing pieces like buttons on the back. I tried to fluff it out and it came apart,

I emailed the company and they said they would mail me the buttons to sew on – I told them I wanted a full refund and they said they would do that but I have to pay for shipping the dress back–to CHINA. Now keep in mind when I ordered the dress the website didn’t say anything about China it said US and UK.

The cheapest shipping cost was quoted by ups for $142.00 for me to ship the dress back. Since the dress cost me $138.00, I really cant afford to ship the dress back for $4.00. I feel cheated by this company and have no idea how to get my money back without having to pay for shipping. If you check out their facebook page, it is covered with stories just like mine. One story says she even mailed the dress back and they never gave her the refund.

I am at a loss-what can I do?

You need to request a chargeback by contacting your bank and explaining the situation. That’s what you do when you’ve purchased an item that didn’t arrive, is significantly not as promised, or when a store isn’t honoring its own return policy. Technically, this store is honoring its posted return policy–this policy just forgets to mention that shipping a poofy dress back to China ain’t cheap.

Check out this classic Consumerist article: “What Is A Chargeback?

Ashley paid with a debit card, but since the purchase was only a month ago, she’s within the time limit (typically about 2 months.) Yes, Visa- or Mastercard-branded debit cards do offer some chargeback protection.

Chargebacks aren’t something that you should take lightly. Be conscious of the time limit, but don’t rush to use them until you’ve tried everything to work things out with the merchant.

Want more consumer news? Visit our parent organization, Consumer Reports, for the latest on scams, recalls, and other consumer issues.