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Understanding Disputed Charges
Understanding Disputed Charges

An overview of what disputes are, how to avoid payment disagreements, and the general process for ACH and Credit Card disputes.

Sabrina avatar
Written by Sabrina
Updated over a week ago

Disputes and disagreements regarding payments are scenarios every business processing transactions will likely encounter at some point.

At brightwheel, disputed payments are a rare occurrence. Less than 0.02% of all payments made through brightwheel are disputed, which means on average a program may experience 1 dispute every 12-15 years, if at all. Even though these scenarios are uncommon, we understand they can be very disruptive and frustrating if they do occur at your program.

In the rare case of this happening, we make every effort to support providers and have a dedicated team ready to assist. The method of payment (ACH or Credit Card) is a determining factor in what options are available when a dispute is filed.

View an overview of the dispute process here.

Table of Contents

Avoiding & Remedying Disagreements

Although payment disputes may not always be avoidable, we suggest some common best practices for communicating with families to stay ahead of disagreements or remedy a disagreement if it's ongoing. Please see our resource on Avoiding & Remedying Payment Disagreements to proactively dive deeper into this topic.

Understanding ACH Disputes

Disputes filed on ACH payments by a student contact (the payer) can be challenging. ACH payments are electronic bank-to-bank transfers processed through the Automated Clearing House and there are three strict reasons this type of payment method can be disputed (never authorized, wrong date, wrong amount).

If a student contact submits a formal request in writing to dispute a payment made to your program, the bank will decide whether or not to accept the dispute. Brightwheel will notify you if an ACH dispute is filed, but if the bank decides to accept the dispute, it will be automatically resolved in the student contact’s favor.

NACHA is the governing body that sets the rules for ACH payment processing and while they do allow a payer to dispute an ACH payment, they do not allow anyone to formally fight the dispute. Brightwheel is on your side, but because of this regulation, there is, unfortunately, nothing we can do to challenge the dispute on your behalf.

Once an ACH dispute has been filed, providers have a couple of options:

  • Reach out to the student contact for additional context on the dispute to work together and find a resolution to move forward

  • Take legal action (e.g. small claims court)

We do suggest requiring a parent deposit as a form of insurance/protection at your program, so if this scenario does affect you or has already affected you, you can be prepared and have the deposit to ideally cover any losses.

We are here to support you during a dispute, but if a student contact chooses to go this route, brightwheel, unfortunately, has no control over the process or outcome.

Understanding Credit Card Disputes

Disputes filed on Credit Card payments by a student contact (the payer) can also be challenging, but there is more opportunity for a provider to fight the dispute.

When a student contact disputes a credit card transaction, brightwheel will make every effort to support the provider. If at all possible, it's ideal for the provider and student contact to connect offline to resolve the dispute. However, if the dispute is not dropped, our dedicated team will work one-on-one with you to supply evidence to the credit card company to fight the dispute.

For providers that are able to present consistent, organized evidence when fighting a dispute, it is highly likely that they will win and retain the funds. This is one of the many reasons it is important to ensure that attendance records, activity reports, tuition/fee documentation are shared with student contacts, and any student contact communications are accessible and accurate.

Once we've provided the evidence, we are not privy to details of the credit card companies' investigation but will notify you when they have reached a decision. If the student contact wins the dispute, the funds will be returned to them. If they lose, the funds would be retained by the provider and not returned to the student contact.

Please Note: If you are contemplating taking any actions on a disputed charge such as refunding/providing a credit, please contact to discuss what is best first.

Additional Resources

To learn more about the detailed process of fighting a credit card dispute, how disputes may affect future deposits to your program, and how invoices with a disputed charge will be affected, please see the relevant resources linked below (depending on your program’s Billing version).

If you are unsure what version your program is using, please see "Which Billing Version am I using?" first.

  • If your program is using Billing Version 2, click here to learn more

  • If your program is using Billing Version 3, click here to learn more

Our primary focus during a dispute of any kind is to support our providers and do everything possible to assist.

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