Tuesday 15 January 2008

VISA - Forced Transaction and Symantec

We just discovered what a "Forced Transaction" is to the credit card companies.

We received an email from Symantec indicating that our subscription was automatically renewed.

However, we do not have a subscription to any Symantec products. We have purchased them for some of our single seat clients or non-profits, but only for the year. Or, at least we thought so.

This is the content of the email:

Symantec Subscription Auto Renew

When going through the various purchases that we do in this manner, we are pretty careful about such "automatic" settings.

Perhaps we missed this one ... it is sure a lesson to be a lot more careful in the future.

There are a couple of things to note about this particular situation:
  1. When we called the credit card company to enquire about the transaction - the original card's expiry was long gone - we were told that the credit card company allows for subscription services to be "Forced" through despite the expiry date on the credit card!
    • This information was really surprising since one assumes that upon a credit card expiring, any associated recurring transactions would no longer apply. This is obviously not the case when it comes to ongoing subscription type services.
  2. The credit card company contact was not the least bit surprised that Symantec was the culprit. It seems to be a quite common experience.
The credit card representative recommended we contact Symantec Support and ask them to reverse the charge. They also recommended that we save a transcript of the conversation (we used the chat feature), just in case the charge reversal does not go through and we need to initiate the payment dispute mechanism at the credit card company.

In a business we have to reconcile all of our various statements, so things like this tend to be caught in smaller organizations.

What happens to those who do not pay too much attention to their credit card statements? They get billed for a product they very well may not be using anymore! What happens to larger organizations that may not pay attention to every single transaction going through their books? They pay too.

Symantec indicated that they would reverse the charge and discontinue the "subscription". We now need to wait 2-3 business days for the transaction to appear on our credit card.

Philip Elder
Microsoft Small Business Specialists

*All Mac on SBS posts are posted on our in-house iMac via the Safari Web browser.


stryqx said...

Yeah, Forced Transactions are an A-grade pain - it means you can't simply ignore customer service-challenged providers and let your card expiry date take care of them.

I do know that here in Aus that some banks ignore Forced Transactions entirely - I moved all my accounts from a credit union to a bank for this very reason.

Some card batching systems don't even require the use of expiry dates, so I imagine that this is how Forced Transactions are lodged - by the use of a blank expiry field.

Philip Elder Cluster MVP said...


One of the words of advice we give our clients when it comes to Identity Protection is to "rotate" their cards every two years.

Some card companies allow us to call their security department and have the numbers changed. When they ask us why, we tell them that certain merchants we have dealt with (important to mention) seem to have a penchant for charging our card when not authorized to do so.

For those card companies that do not allow the numbers to be changed, we "lose" the card.

Keep in mind that one is without that credit card for anywhere up to 2 weeks.


Anonymous said...

I routinely 'lose' my credit cards to get a new number when I don't want a questionable merchant to coninue having access to my card. But forced charges! I just got over dealing with American Express. A card number we cancelled in 2005 was used for an annual subscription charge this year (and yeah, the card's expiration is long past)! And I missed the 2 previous year renewals. Amazing - an expired card that was cancelled is showing charges? This was on an account that was active still (just that card number was cancelled). But I could see you getting a bill from a credit card / credit card comppany on an account you closed completely months ago. That's a shame.

In argueing with Amex, I pointed out if a kid gets my credit card number and signs up for a porn subscription - I'll see the charge, dispute it and close that card number. meanwhile I'll have to do the whole thing all over again in a year when the renewal shows up and is accepted! Sure, I can dispute that, but I have better things to do with my time!