Full responses from Mastercard and Visa
These are the full responses Mastercard Canada and Visa Canada provided to CBC Marketplace as part of its investigation into what are known as online subscription traps. Read the full investigation here.
Cardholders should reach out to their issuer as soon as they see an unusual charge on their statement. Cardholders are covered by Mastercard's Zero Liability policy and won't be charged for fraudulent transactions. Cardholders should also carefully read terms and conditions of any offer on a new purchase to ensure that the offer is as presented and that the cardholder knows exactly what they are purchasing.
Visa works with all our stakeholders in the payment system – issuers, acquirers, and merchants – to help prevent fraud. And we work closely with acquirers to detect and address merchants that generate an excessive amount of fraud or disputes.
In a situation where a cardholder expressly authorizes charges by agreeing to terms and conditions, and provides their personal information to a merchant, it is not fraud, so does not fall under Zero Liability.
The challenge is that the cardholder participated in the transaction but the terms and conditions of the sale may not have been evident to the consumer.
Negative option merchants are obligated to disclose all purchase terms and conditions before initiating the initial transaction, and cardholders are always able to file a dispute for charges that were not authorized. If it is a situation where they have authorized recurring charges, they should attempt to resolve with the merchant first. If a cardholder feels that they have been defrauded, they should contact their issuer to report the charges.
Although the majority of retailers are legitimate and trustworthy, it's always important to remain mindful of what it takes to be a safe shopper. Here are some steps consumers can take to avoid falling victim to "deceptive marketing" practices, which typically involve hidden clauses in offer terms that are not well disclosed resulting in recurring and unanticipated payments:
- Take time to read and understand all merchant terms and conditions to ensure a "free trial" doesn't turn into an ongoing and costly purchase you didn't intend to make. The tactic is known as a "negative option" where a consumer accepts an online offer for a free trial or product, after which he or she is billed for a recurring monthly charge. Look for buried terms and conditions that may bind you to recurring payments or make cancellations/returns difficult.
- Look for any pre-checked boxes before submitting your payment. Failing to un-check the boxes may signify "consent" to terms and conditions you are not interested in.
- Review the merchant or web site's delivery and return policy before you commit to buy, making sure you can cancel or return your purchase without hassles or financial penalties.
- Try to resolve the situation with the merchant. If you're unsuccessful, contact your Visa-issuing financial institution immediately to dispute the charge.
- At least every month, do a careful review of your card statements. This is one of the easiest and most effective ways to avoid paying for purchases you didn't intend to make. Make sure you are in "the-know" about all charges on your cards, and notify the card issuer promptly of any unusual activity or unauthorized charges.
- Report your experience to the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre by calling 1-888-495-8501 or emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
It is the acquirer's responsibility to ensure that their merchants are properly disclosing their Ts & Cs and address any merchants that are generating excessive disputes as a result.
Chargeback decisions are actually managed by card issuers and not Visa. However, cardholders are protected against fraudulent charges through Visa's zero liability policy. You can find more information about Visa's Zero-liability policy here: