How transparency can close the gap
Financial technology has a dark side, and without consistent regulation, the threat to consumers’ personal data, rights and protections is one careless click away. Monica Eatonfounder of Chargebacks911, argues that transparency in fintech is a sure way to reduce deceptive practices that erode basic consumer protections.
TAMPA BAY, Fla., 22 May 2023 /PRNewswire-PRWeb/ — How many people actually read the “terms and conditions” before accepting them to speed up the pleasantries and move on to the goal of the first click on a website link? According to a Deloitte survey of 2,000 US consumers, 91% skip the terms page and blindly accept. For Gen Z and millennials between the ages of 18-34, 97% choose “agree” without a care in the world.(1) But what’s on a T&C page, and how enforceable are these boring and seemingly nonsensical sections? Financial technology, or fintech, tools and services are so pervasive in the financial transactions people carry out every day that many don’t even realize they’re using them. Financial technologies, such as Venmo, CashApp, Paypal, and any of the prolific mobile and online banking apps, are available with a quick download, immediately ready to use. What kind of federal regulations are fintech companies subject to? Monica Eatonfounder and CEO of Chargebacks911, champions transparency as even more important than federal regulations.
During its formative years, fintech has had a looser set of regulations than has been applicable to the banking institution for several decades, but that is about to change. The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) is scrutinizing the fintech industry more closely and is currently conducting investigations of non-bank financial companies and cryptocurrency businesses to hold them to the same regulatory standards as traditional banks.(2) Regulatory jurisdiction over fintech is split between the federal government and individual states, naturally creating conflict and confusion.(3)
While the logistical aspects of fintech regulations are being sorted out, Eaton is promoting the obvious and immediate benefits of transparency. Eaton warns: “The well-known adage of ‘what you don’t know can’t hurt you’ does not apply when it comes to blindly accepting a legally binding contract. ‘Signing your life away’ is more accurate. The buying and selling of personal information is in becoming an industry standard.”
The CFPB is taking steps to address the problem of non-bank financial institutions inserting terms and conditions that effectively strip consumers of their constitutional rights. In January 2023, the CFPB proposed a ruling to create a public registry of the fine print included in contracts of adhesion, known as “take it or leave it” agreements that may violate consumers’ legal rights and protections.(4) The proposal seeks to keep non- banks accountable and equip consumers with the facts necessary to make informed decisions when entering into contracts with non-bank entities. Adhesion contracts are not legally enforceable if the court determines that the contract gives disproportionate power to one party over the other or is otherwise unreasonable, ambiguous or contains terms that are so unconscionable that no reasonable person would expect them to be in a contract.(5)
Eaton argues: “Much more needs to be done. The legal language of these agreements is not easily understood by people outside the legal profession, which puts consumers at a distinct disadvantage. But without increasing consumer accountability on balance, revised terms and conditions policies are unlikely to move the needle. The lack of restrictive standards in e-commerce practices is in line with our free market ideals. Regulators should pay more attention to efforts that help codify new ways to protect consumers that help address root-cause concerns. For example, use of payment codes displayed to the consumer and related to the type of sale or related return policy; will not only serve to inform the consumer of certain terms they probably have never read, but also regulate retailers without harming the competitive landscape. advanced significantly and should be exploited to improve behavior on both sides of the coin.”
Many companies have strict returns policies, sometimes not offering the option at all. Consumers are often caught off guard when they try to return an item or cancel a service to find they have minimal or no options. Banks offer services to their customers that allow them to dispute a charge they consider illegitimate or unfair, known as chargebacks. Banks have become more accommodating to their customers in issuing chargebacks by transferring funds from the merchant to the customer’s bank account, often without investigating the source of the dispute.
However, the simple return process has led to several cases of first-party abuse, where customers decide not to risk being rejected for a refund at the retailer and instead go directly to their bank. Others deliberately exploit the system to obtain goods and services without paying for them, often referred to as friendly fraud. For e-commerce businesses, this results in billions of dollars in losses, recently estimated to be over 48 billion dollars annually, of one card brand alone.(6)
After experiencing widespread chargeback fraud in one of its own business enterprises, Eaton became an expert in chargeback remediation by developing innovative and agile technology to provide merchants with workflow management tools that help reduce the otherwise manual effort required to fight chargeback fraud and abuse.
Eaton offers more insight into how e-retailers can reduce consumers’ tendency to go directly to their own bank, deliberately bypassing the merchant’s customer service options.
Eaton says, “Transparency is becoming an important business practice for earning and retaining customers. Let your customers know that you are there for them every step of the way and want them to have an exceptional shopping experience. Be upfront with all return policies, and make sure they’re easy to find and easy to understand.”
When customers trust that they are doing business with a reliable, honest and reputable seller, they will be more inclined to contact that business directly to resolve any issues they may have with their purchase.
Eaton concludes: “Although fintech is a virtual industry, it can still be a personal experience. If there are no walls preventing open communication between a business and their customers, it encourages mutual trust and continued loyalty.”
About Monica Eaton
As an acclaimed entrepreneur, speaker and author, Monica Eaton is recognized as a thought leader in the FinTech industry and a champion for women in technology. She established her entrepreneurial credentials when she sold her first business at the age of 19. When a subsequent e-commerce venture was plagued by revenue chargebacks and fraud, Eaton rose to the challenge by developing a robust solution that combined human insight and agile technology. Today, her innovations are used by thousands of companies worldwide, cementing her reputation as one of the payments industry’s foremost experts in risk management, chargeback reduction and fraud prevention. Monica Eaton is honored to be the recipient of various industry awards. Her own expertise, as well as the services provided by her companies, have been recognized as outstanding by her peers and other industry leaders. Visit http://www.monicaec.com.
1. Global Mobile Consumer Survey 2017: American edition The dawn of the next era in mobile. Deloitte. (2017). Retrieved from 2.deloitte.com/content/dam/Deloitte/us/Documents/technology-media-telecommunications/us-tmt-2017-global-mobile-consumer-survey-executive-summary.pdf
2. Manfredi, R. (2022, May 6). CFPB Invokes Dormant Dodd-Frank Authority to Regulate Non-Bank Financial Companies. Gibson Dunn. Picked up 21 April 2023from gibsondunn.com/cfpb-invokes-dormant-dodd-frank-authority-to-regulate-nonbank-financial-companies/
3. Global Legal Group. (nd). Fintech laws and regulations: USA: SLIDE. GLI – Global Legal Insights – International legal business solutions. Picked up 21 April 2023from globallegalinsights.com/practice-areas/fintech-laws-and-regulations/usa
4. CFPB proposed new rule to establish a public registry of “take it or leave it” contract terms and conditions. JD supra. (nd). Picked up 21 April 2023from jdsupra.com/legalnews/cfpb-proposed-new-rule-to-establish-5978240/
5. Legal Information Institute. (nd). Adhesion contract. Institute for Legal Information. Picked up 21 April 2023from law.cornell.edu/wex/adhesion_contract#:~:text=Courts%20may%20se%20at%20the,had%20the%20chancance%20to%20bargain
6. Friendly Cost of Fraud: What do you lose from chargeback abuse? Chargebacks911. (2022, June 27). Picked up 21 April 2023from chargebacks911.com/friendly-fraud-costs/
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