Your best route to dispute resolution

When things go wrong with a new piece of equipment, you have several options to protect yourself from poor dispute resolution

Gripe Line readers offered several excellent suggestions on what to do if the goods you purchase turn out to be defective and the merchant doesn't want to make it right.

The suggestions have come in response to a recent post in which reader Joel received a nonworking external hard drive and was asked to pay shipping for a refurbished replacement (see "Defective hardware, deteriorating customer service").

Resolving this type of problem often involves a series of potentially painstaking steps. For Joel, it meant persistently contacting Iomega until he found someone willing to help. He also wrote to Gripe Line. Together, this proved to be an excellent, inexpensive strategy.

[ Read more about this disturbing customer service trend in "Defective hardware, deteriorating customer service" | Frustrated by tech support? Get answers in InfoWorld's Gripe Line newsletter. ]

But there are other ways to go about dealing with such issues. Gripe Line reader Spudly points out in the comments on that post that your credit card company can also help.

"Paying with credit card is the best safeguard consumers have when making purchases," he writes. "If the [company's] solution doesn't seem adequate there is always the threat of a chargeback. It's something consumers have on their side for unreasonable answers from vendors who force us to deal (in both time and monetary expenses) with shoddy solutions."

There was a bit of debate in the comments as to whether this strategy works, though, and under what circumstances, so I contacted Visa for an update on a consumer's rights.

First, I think it's important to point out that you don't have to use a credit card to get Visa to help you out. A debit card -- at least one from Visa -- offers the same protections.

"Visa Credit and Debit cardholders have the ability to dispute purchases when they are not satisfied with the delivery or quality of purchases," reads a fact sheet Visa sent me on the subject. If you have tried and are unable to resolve a dispute with a merchant, certainly contact your card issuer to dispute the charges to your card. According to the Visa fact sheet, you can dispute charges to your card for a number of reasons, including the following:

  • The merchant was unwilling to provide services
  • The shipped merchandise was not received
  • The merchant did not provide the goods or services described on the documentation that was presented to the cardholder at the time of purchase
  • The merchandise was received damaged, defective, or otherwise unsuitable

If you have a premium credit card, it might offer even more resources for managing purchases made with it, including the Warranty Manager Service, which will extend warranties and track and process repairs.

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