The card's out there, and it's play or get played?
July 20, 2009 4:09 PM   Subscribe

Amazon incorrectly charged a little-used credit card $79 and we stupidly missed it for a few months. What's the best way to deal with the credit card company and Amazon?

(Apologies for the long story, but I wanted to make sure to include all the details.)

My wife and I are Americans, but live overseas and, as a result, see our American mail not all that often. A couple of months ago Amazon.com randomly charged my wife $79 for an Amazon Prime membership, despite the fact that she never enrolled in Amazon Prime and knew nothing about it. The charges went on a MasterCard that hasn't been used in years, and, since we don't see the bills frequently, we didn't know anything about the charges until months after the fact. When we did find out about this, the bill was months overdue, with late payment and finance charges added and reports sent to the credit ratings agencies.

So my wife called the credit card company (it's a Citizens Bank Mastercard, which I guess is run by RBS) to dispute the charges. The customer service people basically refused to do a chargeback, told her that she had no choice but to pay the bill on the spot (which she did, over the phone), and told her that if she wanted to do a chargeback she would have to call Amazon and collect some proof that she had not made the purchases herself.

Then she called Amazon, who agreed almost immediately that she had not enrolled in Amazon Prime. They also agreed to refund the cost of all charges incurred to the credit card, including all the late fees and finance charges, as long as she first paid the bill and sent documentation of the charges.

After that she called the card company back, told them what Amazon had said, told them that she was disputing the charges and, as a result, wasn't going to pay the bill (payment of which had been post-dated). The card company representative, a manager, after giving her a hard time about not paying the bill, told her they would cancel the charges and late fees, but could do nothing about the finance charges or knock to her credit rating.

We realize that we bear some responsibility for not looking at the bill enough, but the card company's response still sounds pretty weak to me. The one other time I had to do a chargeback (for a fraudulent purchase on my account) the card company (a different one) was incredibly helpful and reasonable. So I wonder if, in fact, we're getting played by the card company here.

So what's the best way to proceed? Should we suck it up, pay the bill, and hope for Amazon to pony up the refund for all the charges? Should we push the card company take care of it, and if so, how do we push them? Is there anything to be done about negative credit reports and should we really worry about them at all when the rest of our credit history is totally clean? On the one hand, this is a small amount of money, on the other hand, on principle, it seem to me that the card company could be treating us better.
posted by Fuzzy Dunlop to Work & Money (10 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
 
[Amazon] agreed to refund the cost of all charges incurred to the credit card, including all the late fees and finance charges...

So what exactly is the problem?

Should we suck it up, pay the bill, and hope for Amazon to pony up the refund for all the charges?

Yes.
posted by halogen at 4:29 PM on July 20, 2009 [2 favorites]


With all graciousness I have to concede that this is a shit sandwich that will probably have to be eaten. An account holder bears 100% of the burden of monitoring activity, balances, and changes to the account every month. If this is difficult to do from overseas, it may be necessary to temporarily close the account.

I'd say give Amazon a chance to make good on this, especially if you call back and verify their intentions to fix it. You have 6-12 months (I forgot which) to follow through on a chargeback if they drop the ball. If it comes to that, you should make sure you're dealing with the actual security branch of the credit card company that handles unauthorized charges, not the regular phone monkeys. I'd say Amazon is being exceptionally generous offering to refund the extra charges. Anything else anyone does to zero out the fees is a courtesy. You may want to try for mercy with the credit card company after the charges have settled and your balance is $0 again.
posted by crapmatic at 4:40 PM on July 20, 2009


This isn't really the credit card company's problem, so I wouldn't push them too hard. They've already agreed to waive fees and charges which they were entitled to levy. Be careful about telling credit analysts that you don't intend to pay a bill - your contract usually allows them to them to take action they might not otherwise be able to take once they have reason to believe you have no intention of paying.

Really, it's Amazon who needs to fix this and I'd being pushing their customer service reps to cover any out of pocket expenses you've incurred due to their error. You might also consider giving your credit card provider a mailing address which ensures that you receive your future statements in a timely manner.

The information which the CC company has put on your credit report is accurate from what you've said. You can ask them to make a positive report after your account is no longer delinquent and to report the waiving of the fees, but that's about as much as you can reasonably ask. This really isn't their problem and if you're only a very occasional, small value customer they're unlikely to go out of their way for you. Be careful you don't give them reason to cancel your card, as that would result in far more negative credit reports than what you're trying to avoid now.
posted by Lolie at 4:40 PM on July 20, 2009


(6-12 months referring to after when the original charge posted)
posted by crapmatic at 4:40 PM on July 20, 2009


Then she called Amazon, who agreed almost immediately that she had not enrolled in Amazon Prime. They also agreed to refund the cost of all charges incurred to the credit card, including all the late fees and finance charges, as long as she first paid the bill and sent documentation of the charges.

After that she called the card company back, told them what Amazon had said, told them that she was disputing the charges and, as a result, wasn't going to pay the bill (payment of which had been post-dated). The card company representative, a manager, after giving her a hard time about not paying the bill, told her they would cancel the charges and late fees, but could do nothing about the finance charges or knock to her credit rating.

I fail to see why you are making this so difficult. Pay the charges - provide Amazon with proof of payment and all charges/fees. Collect their written acknowledgment that they were in error and were refunding all charges/fees. Go back to the Credit Card company with real proof (not anecdotal phone call proof) and go from there. You jumped the gun by calling them before you had written proof, and you really made the issue much more complicated by refusing to pay. Once you've done all of that, you can work to get the ding on your credit amended.
posted by The Light Fantastic at 4:42 PM on July 20, 2009


I fail to see why you are making this so difficult.

Because once you pay, you're very vulnerable. What if Amazon says "oh, we wouldn't have agree to pay for your charges, you must be mistaken".
posted by smackfu at 4:47 PM on July 20, 2009


The horse has departed the barn, but you may wish to convert to online statements. For this problem, Amazon should reverse the charges. You could ask them to write a letter explaining the mistake, which you can use to explain the credit ding to the credit people.
posted by theora55 at 4:55 PM on July 20, 2009 [1 favorite]


This happened to me, (I caught it just after they billed me) and since I hadn't used the free shipping service they refunded the full amount.
posted by acro at 5:28 PM on July 20, 2009


Yeah, like smackfu says, the reason for not just paying is that we have no way to know if Amazon will actually make good on their offer of a refund once we've paid. They're not offering to reverse the charges, they're offering to write a check when we send them a receipt for the paid bill. (Not that I have any reason to think they're lying or anything, just that I'm not convinced this will really work out.)

I've had to deal with fraudulent charges before and frankly, it was way easier than this particular card company has made it and the other company was much nicer about helping out. So this whole interaction with them just didn't feel right to me, but maybe my experience was the unusual one and most card companies are a lot less nice than mine is.

Agree that not getting the bills in time was a major screw up; I'm not trying to weasel out of that responsibility. Just wondering if there's a better way to proceed than just pay and hope for the best from Amazon.
posted by Fuzzy Dunlop at 12:47 AM on July 21, 2009


Because once you pay, you're very vulnerable.

True in general business, but not true in the case of credit cards. Amazon has, conceptually, already been paid by the credit card company, whether or not you ever pay your cc bill isn't relevant. (A chargeback is a separate transaction.)

They are two different relationships. Forget disputing charges for a moment, and consider what happens if you simply never pay your credit card bill again.

Amazon will most certainly still have been paid.
posted by rokusan at 2:19 AM on July 21, 2009


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