ACH claims and disputes: how to manage them in your business

ach claim

Last modified on March 26th, 2024

37% of payment fraud happens through ACH transactions, according to the 2022 AFP report. While this number has been increasing over recent years, ACH remains a popular payment method for B2B and B2C transactions. The likeliness of fraud isn’t their only downside: businesses also have to deal with ACH disputes. Keep reading to learn about what an ACH claim is and how to make your ACH payments more efficient and secure.

Trustpair helps companies block fraudulent ACH transactions by doing ongoing account validation. We also help reduce your payment errors, leading to fewer ACH returns. Request a demo to learn more!

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What is an ACH claim?

A quick definition of ACH payments

The ACH (Automated Clearing House) network is part of the payment methods available to both corporations and consumers in the United States.

It allows the automatic transfer (clearing) of funds between two financial establishments that belong to the ACH network. ACH payments are very popular: $20M were transferred through this network in the first quarter of 2023 alone.

This type of payment is used for a variety of applications, such as:

  • Sending and receiving paychecks,
  • Setting up recurring bills,
  • Paying suppliers,
  • Enabling peer-to-peer (P2P) transaction services, like CashApp or Venmo.

ACH disputes and claims

With ACH payments being so popular, it’s normal that occasional issues appear during transactions. An ACH claim arises when one of the parties (usually the buyer) disputes the transaction with the other party (the seller, who can be an individual or a business).

For example, they can disagree on the accuracy, legitimacy, or whether the transaction had been authorized.

Any claim falls under the NACHA (National Automated Clearing House Association) guidelines. NACHA governs the ACH network and has strict operating rules that must be followed by anyone using ACH transactions.

That makes ACH claims harder to process than credit card chargebacks. In the latter, banks are quick to cancel a transaction and return the money to their customers’ accounts.

In the case of ACH disputes, however, financial institutions have to abide by NACHA’s rules on what constitutes a legitimate claim before considering ACH returns (also called chargebacks).

To sum up, an ACH claim follows a proper structure and must meet specific criteria to be processed and resolved. An ACH chargeback is not always granted.

 

In what circumstances is an ACH claim valid?

An ACH claim is valid when the reasons used by the consumers or merchants are deemed legitimate according to the ACH guidelines.

NACHA has about 70 numbers for ACH returns that can lead to a return of funds from the receiving depository financial institution (RDFI) back to the originator.

Here are the most common reasons that make an ACH claim valid:

Unauthorized transaction: the claimer didn’t give their express consent for the funds to be taken from their accounts at the time of the transfer. This can happen:

  • in case of fraud and phishing where scammers stole bank account numbers
  • if the authorization was granted but then revoked (for example if a recurring ACH debit was canceled.

Incorrect amount: the wrong amount was taken. For instance, a customer got charged for a full price instead of an agreed-upon discount, or they got charged an extra 0 on the amount. (The same happens with credit cards when the wrong number is typed in the payment terminal.)

Duplicate transaction: the ACH transaction was taken twice from the payee’s account. This usually happens because of a technical or processing error.

Inaccurate account information: the transaction was debited from the wrong account or invalid account number. For example, the customer updated their bank account information but the ACH debit was taken from their original bank account ACH was set up on.

Erroneous goods or services provided: this happens when the recipient hasn’t delivered their part of the deal, such as:

  • The customer doesn’t receive the product or service they paid for,
  • They receive a different product or service,
  • There are shipping delays or the goods are damaged.

If the reason given by the account holder falls into one of the above categories, then their financial establishment will process their claim and establish if they can issue a chargeback.

Most of these reasons for ACH claims can be avoided with:

  • Clearer communication to manage expectations,
  • Better operating and payment processes to reduce entry and processing errors,
  • Improved data management with the latest data available in your files.

Trustpair helps with all of this by providing a platform that centralizes and secures your third-party credentials. We streamline your business-to-business payment process by providing ongoing account validation. This reduces your risks of manual errors, returns, and fraud happening.

What is the ACH dispute process?

Before raising an ACH dispute, the party complaining has to ensure that their reasons for doing so are valid (the reasons of the return seen above). If they are, they can follow through the ACH claim process to try to get the funds credited back onto their account:

  1. Notifying their bank. The account holder (usually) contacts their bank to let them know of their intention to dispute the ACH transaction.
  2. Investigating the claim. The account holder’s financial institution gathers the information (transaction details, records of authorization, and anything else relevant) that supports the claim. The other party might be contacted to provide their side of the story and supporting evidence.
  3. Resolving the dispute. Based on their research, the account holder’s bank attests to the validity — or not — of the ACH claim based on NACHA’s guidelines. If the dispute is deemed valid, the originating depository financial institution will solve the matter by recovering the funds and sending a direct ACH credit (or modifying the details).
  4. Communicating their decision. The disputing bank will officially notify the account holder who raised the claim of their decision and eventual corrective actions.

This process is the official way to deal with ACH claims and involves both account holders’ banks.

In the case of B2B transactions, ACH disputes don’t have to go that far. If a customer contacts you to dispute an ACH transaction debited by your organization, it’s best to first assess the situation on your own.

Sometimes, it can be as easy as a customer not recognizing the name of your company on their bank statement. Having each payment detail recorded is handy in those situations and will save you the ACH return fees.

If the case is more serious, you have two case scenarios:

  • If their claim is valid, your organization can initiate what’s called an ACH chargeback (a refund) for the totality or a part of the transaction. The ACH return fee will cost you between $2 and $5, but it will be solved swiftly without damaging your customer relationship too much.
  • If you find their claim invalid, you can gather information from your records and submit it to their financial institution. They should also notify you of their decision when they reach it.

Of course, the best scenario is not to have ACH claims in the first place! Keep reading to reduce the risk of ACH claims being a recurring part of your business.

 

3 best practices to avoid B2B ACH claims

Have clear corporate policies

Every organization needs clear guidelines for its payment methods. It should include elements like:

  • Which payment methods do you accept (wire transfers, checks, instant payment methods, …)?
  • What are your payment terms for each payment method (refund policy, payment delay)?
  • What is your policy for refunds and chargebacks? Do you have a specific code in place to keep track of the credit transactions issued as refund?

Be clear on those points and communicate them clearly to both your teams and your customers. This will ensure that everyone is on the same page and that if a problem does arise, it is managed correctly and with minimum loss (of money and reputation).

Of course, those policies must be based on international regulations. In the case of ACH payments and instant ACH transfers, it means the National Automated Clearing House Association’s guidelines.

Streamline your order-to-cash process

Another important element to reducing your ACH claims is to ensure your order-to-cash and procure-to-pay processes are optimized.

For the order-to-cash process (that serves your customers) that means:

  • Processing customers’ orders quickly,
  • Delivering your goods and services within your terms,
  • Asking for a signature on receipt of delivery,
  • Taking payments on the agreed-upon timeline (cash payment or credit),
  • Keeping accurate records of payments.

Ensuring overall good customer service will ensure that their expectations are met and that they’re happy with your goods or services. In turn, that translates to fewer disputes and payment claims.

These measures will ensure you have fewer problems with customers disputing ACH. However, this won’t help in case of fraud and fraudulent ACH returns.

Use anti-fraud software

96% of US companies were targeted by at least one fraud attempt in 2023. Third-party fraud is especially prevalent.

Nowadays, criminals come up with clever schemes where they impersonate real suppliers, submit fake invoices, and manipulate employees through social engineering to commit fraud.

In vendor fraud, your team receives an email asking them for an ACH transfer to be made to a different account. The email will look legitimate, coming from a well-known supplier. In reality, updating the bank account details means every time your supplier sends an invoice, the transaction will go to the fraudster’s account.

The good news is you can prevent any of that from happening by using Trustpair. Our anti-fraud solution continuously audits your third-party credentials, so you always know who you’re paying.

Our software uses three-way matching and predictive analysis to spot any suspicious activity (including with international bank accounts) and raises the alarm before fraud is committed.

With Trustpair, you’re protected against ACH fraud — and any other form of B2B payment fraud.

Learn more about the latest fraud trends in our annual fraud study.

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Key Takeaways:

An ACH claim happens when a party challenges an ACH transaction. The process to dispute ACH must be based on the valid reasons established by NACHA.

Improving your company’s processes will reduce your B2B claims. Using Trustpair means your business will be protected against ACH fraud and other third-party frauds.

FAQ

You can get an ACH payment only under specific circumstances, like if you didn’t have the authorization to debit the account. It’s better to first communicate with the other party to learn what happened and try to solve the situation. If not, you can make an official ACH claim by contacting your bank within 60 days and proving you have a valid reason.

Our fraud prevention software provides automated account validation and checks each payment before execution. We continuously check supplier credentials to make sure they are who they say they are. If anything looks suspicious, our software blocks the outgoing transaction and sends you an alert. With Trustpair, you always know who you’re paying and are protected from financial risks. Your funds and assets are secure and you’re compliant with NACHA account validation rules.

Our services also include detailed risk analytics, customized workflows, and extensive customer support. Your business will be protected against ACH and payment fraud.

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