Law Offices of David J. Bartone
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 TMF/MATCH Information

The credit card associations use a file known as the Member Alert To Control High Risk Merchants file (the "MATCH File" or "MATCH"). The MATCH File is a database file, oftentimes referred to as the Terminated Merchant File "TMF" used by the card associations and processing banks (the "Acquiring Banks") to identify merchants and their principals whose merchant accounts have been terminated. When a merchant is placed on the MATCH, it is unlikely that it will be able to accept credit cards again. Getting removed from the MATCH is not an easy task. The MATCH File Rules state that a merchant may only be removed from the MATCH File if there was an "error." Being placed on the MATCH File oftentimes puts a merchant out of business. The rules require that the MATCH be reported for 5 years.  

 f you have been placed on the MATCH, you should consult an industry attorney to evaluate your options. Mr. Bartone has experience in seeking removal of merchants from the MATCH and providing options to merchants who have been placed on MATCH. 

1.            Acquirers use the MATCH File when you apply for a Merchant Account.

Acquiring Banks must run a MATCH report to determine whether the merchant applicant and its principals have ever been terminated. If the acquirer receives a response indicating a "possible match" against a merchant or an individual listed on the file, the acquirer must ensure that the listed merchant or individual are the same as the one for which the inquiry was generated. If so, the acquirer must contact the listing bank to determine why the business or individual was added to the file. Usually, this results in the denial of the merchant application.  

If a previous acquirer placed the merchant and/or its principals on the MATCH, that does not necessarily mean the merchant is prohibited from obtaining a merchant processing account; however, it makes it unlikely. The acquirer must base its decision on a complete investigation, and use the MATCH File as an informational tool in the decision making process. Some acquirers will issue an approval conditioned upon having the listing removed by the prior processor, while others will review the circumstances surrounding the listing and make an informed decision.

It is very important to read your merchant processing agreement and understand the circumstances under which your processing privileges may be terminated. When your acquirer notifies you of its intent to terminate your account, the acquirer may be required to list the merchant's your business and principal names on MATCH.  There are many instances in which that listing is required immediately:

  1. The merchant has been convicted of credit card fraud. 
  2. The merchant deposited sales that were not authorized by cardholders; most typically in a "card not present" environment with recurring charges.         
  3. The merchant deposited transactions that were for sales from another business. This is known as laundering. Oftentimes, this seems like an innocent practice of one business owner helping another; however, this is a material violation of Visa and MasterCard rules.
  4. The acquirer has received an excessive number of cardholder chargebacks due to the merchant’s practices. This is by far the most common reason for termination.
  5. As a result of an audit or investigation, the acquirer identifies the merchant as having engaged in fraud.    
  6. The acquirer concludes that serious violations of the merchant agreement could result in increased loss exposure to itself or the credit card community.
  7. The merchant deposited an excessive number of counterfeit sales.     
  8. The acquirer learns from Visa or MasterCard that the merchant has been identified as having excessive fraudulent activity.

 2.            Is there a way to get off of the MATCH List?

 he short answer to the questions is yes, but it depends upon the reason the merchant was placed on MATCH. If you believe your business or name has been improperly placed on the MATCH File, you should contact an industry attorney to work with the acquirer that placed you on MATCH. Only that acquirer is authorized to request a change or deletion of the information. If your counsel is unfamiliar with the credit card industry or Visa and MasterCard associations, you may want to consider consulting with a firm specializing in this issue.

If the listing acquirer recognizes that the listing was in error, that acquirer must request the file correction immediately upon recognition of the error. Obvious examples would include the wrong business and principal names, but could also include termination for reasons that would not warrant a public listing (e.g. inactivity, etc.). An error does not include an unresolved dispute over the definition of "excessive chargebacks" and other violations; however, this could very well be a litigable issue. 

To request a change or deletion, the listing bank submits its request to MasterCard International. The designated individual at MasterCard will review the merchant’s explanation and listing bank’s justification for change or removal from the listing. MasterCard International reserves the right to deny the request. The listing bank must sincerely explain its reason for the deletion. Oftentimes, the merchant is completely divorced from the process and is totally unaware it has been placed on the MATCH until its merchant application with another acquirer has been declined.  

There is no easy way of to get removed from the MATCH. If you are on MATCH for committing fraud, removal may not be possible. Processors abhor fraud, and if you committed fraud, it's not likely you will be removed.
Most merchants who represent themselves have difficulty if they seek removal on their own. Most merchants who are placed on MATCH call the merchant account provider and are on the phone with different departments in the company. Oftentimes, they are referred to the processing bank. However, in either case, the merchant is too often not taken seriously, gets buried in the bureacracy, and is unsuccessful. Merchants oftentimes do not remain calm and courteous with the persons with whom they speak. Yelling and acting aggressively towards the processor only makes matters worse.

If a merchant was placed on the MATCH File for high chargebacks and money is due and owing, MATCH removal becomes much more difficult. Paying what is due helps immensely in the removal process.

Unfortunately, the majority of the time, it is not that simple to get off the MATCH File. It normally takes several weeks to get off the MATCH File. Sometimes it takes negotiations to get charges cleared up, or fees removed. At this point every case is unique. It may be necessary to file suit to seek removal.

Again, it is recommended that you contact a bankcard industry attorney to represent you in the MATCH removal process.

3.            Is the process with which one gets placed on the MATCH List fair?

It's not unfair to say that the amount of due process afforded a merchant before being placed on the MATCH is minimal at best. Unlike the credit reporting industry, there are no laws governing the MATCH process.  The acquiring bank that adds or removes a merchant or individual from the MATCH File must take care to do so in a responsible manner. A knee jerk addition of a merchant or individual to the listing can result in unwarranted business difficulty to the listed business and owner. (It can be similar to a creditor reporting wrong information about a debtor's credit history). However, on the other side of things, an acquirer's failure to list a "problem merchant" means the acquirer is not living up to its responsibilities to forewarn fellow Visa and MasterCard members. Under the card association rules, an acquirer could be held liable to a subsquent merchant for failing to MATCH a merchant it terminated.  

It must be kept in mind the MATCH cannot be used as a tool to collect money claimed to be due and owing by the Merchant. The rules prohibit such use. Such use could be characterized as a form of economic extortion.

Many industry experts believe that placing a Merchant on the MATCH file is a form of trade defamation because of the extreme damage Merchants suffer when they are placed on MATCH precipitously without the listing acquirer hearing the merchant's side of the story.     

The decision to MATCH or not MATCH and whether to remove a merchant from the MATCH must be taken very seriously by the acquirer. In fact, an acquirer who fails to comply with listing requirements could be held liable for the losses incurred by another acquiring bank for failure to list. However, this rarely happens. On the other hand, Visa may require the acquirer to indemnify Visa for all claims resulting from its erroneous addition to, deletion from, or failure to remove from, the MATCH File when required.

 4.            Advice to Merchants to avoid being placed on the MATCH File.

It is an understatement to conclude that the listing of your business or name on MATCH is a very serious matter. The card associations hold the acquiring bank accountable for the processing activity flowing through your merchant processing account. Once chargeback levels increase and/or suspicious activity occurs, it is critical for business owners to resolve the matter immediately. Oftentimes, the acquiring bank runs out of options and is required to terminate and list the merchant and its principal on the MATCH.  

Correcting the cause of consumer disputes, chargebacks and suspicious activity is a less expensive and more permanent choice to avoid being placed on MATCH. Most merchants on MATCH wish they had been more forceful in complying with the card association rules. Here are some additional guidelines that merchants should take into consideration.

Do not exceed your officially authorized maximum ticket without permission from your Merchant Processor. Likewise, do not exceed your authorized monthly maximum sales without advanced permission from your Merchant Processor.

Operate your customer service at the highest level. Make sure to fulfill the products you are selling in a timely manner and issue refunds liberally so merchants do not become upset with you. 

Utilize chargeback warning systems so that you can head off and prevent chargebacks.   

Provide customers with timely and accurate debit information. Be sure that it is easy for them to reach you with any of their questions, concerns or complaints.    

Make sure you have a Customer Support phone number appearing on your customers' monthly statements. If they don't recognize your debit they should call you FIRST before they mistakenly deny the charge. This can head off unnecessary chargebacks posted to your account and help keep your account out of trouble.  

Stay in touch with your customers using any means available. Send E-mail, make phone calls, send newsletters. The more they know you the better they will feel about you and your business. Provide quality customer service. Give customers service equal to or better than the service that you would like to receive from a merchant.

Be friendly and courteous in all regards. Always put the customers first. Show them how they may save money or save time. Make good suggestions as though you are a trusted business colleague. 

Don't be short-sighted. Consider your business a long-term enterprise. Make your long term goals more important than quick short term profits that will benefit you more than your customer.