Some US agencies handling online credit-card payments on behalf of Web site operators have blacklisted the whole of New Zealand.
By doing so they are breaching, or causing their merchants to breach MasterCard's conditions of use, and possibly Visa's.
Agencies JetBill and Web sitebilling.com say they will accept no transaction bearing an identifiably New Zealand credit-card number, because of an alleged high incidence of fraud in credit-card transactions from this country.
Mastercard International says in an e-mail to Computerworld: "When the MasterCard logo is displayed by a business to show the card is welcome, the merchant must accept, without discrimination, any valid MasterCard cards presented for payment." The e-mail then gives a URL customers can visit "to report the merchant in violation."
The Visa card should be accepted for the payment of goods and services wherever the Visa logo is displayed, says an unnamed individual identifying himself as "Visa Webmaster." He leaves it open whether "should" implies compulsion by rules, or merely means "ought to."
Visa "is concerned when cardholders experience difficulties using their Visa cards," says the Webmaster.
However, unlike MasterCard, Visa does not currently have an online merchant complaint service, he says. "We suggest you notify your Visa issuer -- in this case the Bank of New Zealand (BNZ) -- of any merchant practices that you feel are inappropriate.
"Your card issuer has access to the appropriate Visa rules and regulations as well as to the 'notification of customer complaint' forms which should be used by your issuer to document and file complaints about merchant practices."
JetBill does not display card logos on its home page. But the JetBill payment form accessed from its merchants has the MasterCard and Visa logos. The form includes New Zealand on its drop-down list of countries and further asks the customer to identify the New Zealand bank issuing the card by ticking on another list. Then it rejects the payment.
Web sitebilling's home-page displays both Mastercard and Visa logos.
Earlier this month, a reader reported having a Visa card transaction rejected for a subscription to an online information service. This brought vague but unconfirmed suggestions that his credit-card number may have been put on a blacklist, because he had last year caused BNZ Visa to reverse an irregular payment charged to his card.
Pursuing this further with JetBill by phone, our informant says, the company offered him the alternative of paying by debit from his bank account. That was hardly practical, he told the JetBill representative, as he lives in New Zealand. "That may be your problem," said the JetBill man. "We don't deal with New Zealand."
Approached by Computerworld, another JetBill customer service representative, declining to be identified by any name other than "Sam", confirms New Zealand cardholders are excluded from transacting business by online credit card with any of the merchants JetBill represents. "This is due to an unacceptably high proportion of fraudulent transactions coming from New Zealand," he says.
"Sam" confirms chargeback of suspect transactions may constitute "fraud" from JetBill's point of view. There are a lot of customers who pay for and receive services from merchants then attempt to repudiate the charge, he says.
A large proportion of JetBill's business seems to derive from "discreet" billing of "adult entertainment" services over the Web; but it also acts for what appear to be more conventional business information services and for shopping network coupons.com.
Web sitebilling.com, another organization with which our informant has unsuccessfully tried to conduct business, also says it does not accept New Zealand transactions, for the same reason.
"Unfortunately, New Zealand is on our current list of countries that we do not accept," says customer services spokesman Richard Kwiat, by e-mail. "I understand the frustration (of honest payers), and it seems to be a matter of 'a few bad apples'.
"We have had so much fraud from transactions originating from New Zealand and several other countries, that we had to take drastic measures. Our system is designed to screen hundreds of thousands of transactions, and unfortunately, we cannot override the system transaction-by-transaction."
Subscribers to the nz.general Internet newsgroup also report puzzling rejection of online payments. One New Zealand resident doing genealogical research reported that the New South Wales and Scottish offices of births, deaths and marriages rejected payments on some cards but not others.
"The (NSW) site simply would not accept my Westpac MasterCard," he says. Neither does the Scottish (births marriages and deaths) site. This is not a rejected authorisation, the card is rejected before the attempt to authorise occurs.
"My BNZ (MasterCard) works fine at the Scots site (and any other I ever used it on), but on the NSW (site) it was rejected, the bank informed me they had not been involved in any attempt to do (a check) on the card -- no attempt to authorise had been made.
"Eventually it was tracked down to the Web page form (confusing) the expiry date," he says.