Why Was I Charged Twice For The Same Order?

Being charged twice for the same order can be a frustrating and confusing experience for customers. This issue typically occurs due to an error in the merchant’s order processing system, but can also be caused by mistakes on the part of the customer, bank, or credit card processor.

In this article, we will provide an overview of some of the most common reasons why you may see two charges for one order on your bank or credit card statement. We will also outline the steps you can take to resolve duplicate charges and get refunds when appropriate. Understanding the root causes of double billing can help you prevent it from happening again in the future.

Order Processing System

Merchants typically use automated order processing systems to handle customer orders efficiently. These systems allow the merchant to store order data, track order status, verify inventory availability, calculate pricing and total order costs, and integrate with fulfillment and shipping systems.

A double charge can occur when there are issues with the merchant’s order processing system. For example, network connectivity problems may lead to the order data being sent to the payment processor twice. The payment processor then authorizes the card twice for the same order amount, leading to a double charge.

Batch processing errors can also cause duplicate charges. If an order batch fails to process properly but then gets re-processed, it could lead to duplicate authorization requests against the customer’s card. Errors in batch processing are often traced back to bugs or glitches in the order processing software.

Overall, while rare, double charges highlight flaws in the merchant’s order management systems. Careful testing and auditing is required to identify and fix any parts of the process that could accidentally bill customers twice for the same purchase.

Authorization vs Capture

Authorization and capture are two separate steps in the credit card transaction process that occur at different times. Authorization happens first and verifies that the customer’s card is valid and holds the funds (Stax Payments). Capture occurs later and is when the funds are actually transferred from the customer’s account to the merchant (iNAi).

The time lag between authorization and capture can sometimes cause double charges if there are system errors. For example, a transaction may be authorized but fail to capture due to a network connection issue. The merchant may then attempt to process the payment again, resulting in two authorizations and one capture, charging the customer twice unintentionally.

To avoid this, merchants should have processes in place to match authorizations to captures and reconcile batches to prevent duplicate charges. The customer should also monitor their account activity and contact their credit card company or bank as well as the merchant if they spot any discrepancies.

Batch Processing Issues

Batch processing is a common procedure used by banks and payment processors to group and process credit card transactions efficiently. Instead of processing each transaction in real-time as it occurs, the payment processor will collect transactions into “batches” over a period of time, usually per business day, before submitting them all together for settlement.

This batch processing system can sometimes cause duplicate credit card charges. Here’s how it happens: when a customer makes a purchase, the merchant sends an authorization request to the processor to verify available funds. This puts a temporary hold on those funds but does not complete the transaction. The actual charge happens later, during the batch settlement process at the end of the day. If there is a connectivity issue or processing error, the merchant may not receive confirmation that the authorization was approved. So they submit the authorization again, not realizing the first one went through. Now the transaction gets authorized twice, and the batch settlement will complete two charges.

To avoid batch processing duplicates, merchants should check for confirmation of the initial authorization before resubmitting. If the authorization seems stuck for an extended time, it’s best to wait until after the daily batch settles before attempting it again. This allows any pending authorizations to finalize before potentially duplicating the transaction.

For more details, see:
About double or pending charges on your bank account or credit card

Network Connectivity Problems

Network connectivity issues between the merchant, payment processor, and customer’s bank can sometimes lead to duplicate charges. When a customer makes a purchase, the merchant sends the transaction details to the payment processor, which then contacts the customer’s bank to authorize and capture the payment. This process requires stable internet connections. If there is a disruption during the communication between any of these parties, one system may not receive confirmation that the transaction went through. As a result, when connectivity is restored, the same transaction may accidentally be processed again, leading to a duplicate charge on the customer’s account.

network issues can cause duplicate charges from failed transactions

For example, the payment processor may submit the transaction to the bank but not receive a response due to a temporary network outage. When connectivity resumes, it may re-send the transaction, causing the bank to process it twice since it has no record of the initial request. Or the bank may approve the transaction but the confirmation gets lost before reaching the merchant. The merchant then assumes the transaction failed and submits it again once the network reconnects.

According to one source, some payment gateways will automatically re-try failed transactions up to 4 times before cancelling it to prevent issues like this. But if the connectivity loss occurs after the transaction was approved but before the confirmation reaches the merchant, a duplicate can still occur [1].

Customer Error

Customer error is one of the most common reasons for accidental duplicate orders. This often occurs when a customer places an order but does not receive confirmation, so they place the order again thinking the first one did not go through. According to a discussion on Reddit, one seller had a customer who ordered the same item twice accidentally in separate orders [1]. The customer may have thought the first order failed.

Another common customer error is accidental double clicking of the purchase or submit button, which places the order twice. This can happen on mobile devices more often due to slower processing times leading customers to click multiple times. Customers may also accidentally add the same item to their cart twice and fail to notice before submitting the order. Lack of order confirmation or processing notifications can compound these issues.

Customer errors like these are generally honest mistakes, and merchants should approach resolving duplicate orders with understanding. Having good order tracking and notification systems can help prevent customer confusion that leads to multiple orders.

Merchant Error

Merchant errors in order processing are one of the most common reasons for duplicate charges. This happens when the merchant accidentally submits the same transaction multiple times. There are a few ways this can occur:

Duplicate authorization – The merchant receives the initial authorization response but does not properly record it, and submits the authorization again. This results in two pending charges that will likely both be captured and billed.

Duplicate capture – The merchant properly authorizes the transaction once but then inadvertently captures the charge twice. This captures two charges from the same initial authorization.

Duplicate batch submission – The merchant’s point-of-sale system groups transactions into batches before sending to the processor. If the batch gets submitted twice, often due to a technical error, every transaction in the batch will be processed and billed twice.

Submission from multiple terminals – If the transaction gets entered into two different terminals, such as at the register and again at a back-office machine, two charges can occur.

Clerical error – The merchant may accidentally process and submit the same order twice if they are not carefully tracking orders. This is common with telephoned or handwritten orders.

While merchant errors should be corrected, they are generally not signs of malicious intent to defraud the customer. Often it is an honest technical mistake. The merchant should work with the customer’s card issuer to reverse any erroneous duplicate charges.

Fixing the Issue

If you’ve been charged twice for the same order, here are the steps you can take to get it fixed:

1. Review your account statement and verify that you were indeed charged twice for the same order. Make note of the duplicate transaction dates, amounts, and merchant names.

2. Contact your credit card company or bank. Many major credit card issuers like Visa, Mastercard, American Express, and Discover have a zero liability policy for fraudulent or incorrect charges. You can call the number on the back of your card and explain the situation.

3. Dispute the duplicate charge. The credit card company will open a case and investigate. Provide any documents or evidence you have, like receipts showing you only made one purchase. Under the Fair Credit Billing Act, you have 60 days to dispute a charge.[1]

4. Wait for resolution. The credit card company or bank will notify you once they finish the investigation, which can take up to 90 days. If they rule in your favor, the extra charge will be permanently removed and credited back.

5. Follow up if unresolved. If the dispute is not settled in your favor, contact the merchant directly and try to resolve the issue. Provide the same documentation. If that fails, file a complaint with organizations like the FTC or CFPB.

6. Review policies to prevent future double charges. Many merchants have price match guarantees or will refund orders that show up twice. Enabling text/email alerts can also notify you of duplicate transactions.

Prevention

There are a few steps you can take to avoid being charged twice for the same order in the future:

First, keep a close eye on your credit card statements and account activity. Carefully review charges to ensure there are no duplicates. If you do spot any duplicate transactions, contact your credit card company and the merchant immediately to report the issue and request a refund (Source).

When placing an order online, only click the checkout button once. Be patient and wait for the payment confirmation page to fully load before assuming something went wrong. Double clicking in frustration may lead to two charges (Source).

Only store your credit card information on trusted sites with adequate security measures. Entering card details on multiple sites increases potential exposure. Using digital wallets like Apple Pay can also help limit which merchants have your info (Source).

If errors occur during an online purchase, contact the merchant first before simply trying again. They may be able to void the initial authorization or capture (Source).

Follow up with merchants after ordering to confirm the final charge amount and details. This gives you a chance to spot any discrepancies early (Source).

Conclusion

In summary, there are a few main reasons why a customer may be charged twice for the same order:

  • A delay in batch processing where both the authorization and capture are processed separately
  • Network connectivity issues causing duplicate transactions
  • Errors by the customer or merchant in processing

If you find an unauthorized double charge on your account, contact your bank and the merchant right away. Provide order details and ask them to reverse the duplicate transaction. Going forward, monitor charges closely to ensure you are only billed once. If needed, follow up with the merchant to understand how they prevent duplicate charges in their systems.

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