Q: I recently paid $240 with a Citibank MasterCard debit card to a locksmith to fix a broken door handle. Two days later, the door handle simply fell off and it was apparently not fixed at all. Multiple attempts to contact the locksmith have been unsuccessful. Then, I discovered that this locksmith was unlicensed by the state. Within fives days of service, I disputed the charge with Citibank, but a chargeback was denied. What should I do now?

Connor Eoin / Flickr | https://www.flickr.com/photos/connorgillis/6042192298/

Connor Eoin / Flickr source

– Nancy F.

A: In such situations, it’s always a better option to work directly with the merchant for a quicker resolution. However, it doesn’t seem like you’ll have much luck with the shady locksmith. (There have been many reports of how unlicensed locksmiths are scamming clients who require emergency repairs.)

Filing a chargeback dispute is the correct step to take next.

While card issuers review chargeback disputes on a case-by-case basis, there is a format to how you have to present your case in order to win the dispute. Unfortunately, for a quality-based service like a door repair, it is a rather tedious process and card issuers don’t usually lay out what is needed to file a proper dispute.

In your appeal to Citibank’s dispute decision, you should resubmit your chargeback claim.

For your case, you need to provide three pieces of key documentation to maximize your chances of winning a chargeback dispute (based on MasterCard’s merchant chargeback manual):

1. Receipt/proof of transactions

First, you need to show documentation of the transaction and a description of the service that was supposed to be provided. It must also show the cost of the service that was to be provided.

2. Letter stating unsuccessful merchant contact

Next, you’ll need to write a letter specifying your repeated attempts to get in contact and clarify what the result was.

For your letter, you should specify how and when you tried to contact the locksmith and clearly note what happened during those contact attempts, even if it’s as simple as “I called the locksmith and left a voicemail but I never received a return call.”

From the MasterCard merchant chargeback manual:

A form or letter claiming the cardholder attempted to contact the merchant without explaining the merchant’s response is not sufficient to validate the chargeback and in arbitration will be considered invalid.

3. Documentation from an export or professional

Finally, you’ll need to find a licensed locksmith to confirm that the repair job done by the unlicensed locksmith was not completed as states on the original receipt. The supporting documentation must be provided on the locksmith’s letterhead, or with a copy of the locksmith’s license or business card.

When all else fails

If an appeal fails to grant you a chargeback, your next step should involve legal action. For a small fee and with some paperwork, you can file a lawsuit in small claims court. You might want to consider advice from a legal professional before making this move.

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