5 December 2009

Payment refused based on where I am

My wife just encountered an increasingly common example of private sector Internet border enforcement. From our living room in London, England, she decided to purchase a gift for a US-resident family member. She logged into a US retail web site and entered her order. She specified a US shipping address. She then went to "check out" and tried to use her US credit card (i.e., a card issued by a US domiciled bank) to pay. Her credit card address of record is our family address inside the US.

So here she was: sitting in London, visiting a US web site for a US retailer, purchasing a product for shipment to a US address, and paying with a US credit card linked to a US address.

The result: an unhelpful error message stating "Unsuccessful authorization". Payment declined. Frustration ensued.

Deciding to test my "Internet Borders" hypothesis, my better half telephoned the US retailer help line. The help desk person confirmed that her payment had been denied for one reason only: the web server had (correctly) guessed that she was physically located outside the US when she entered her card details and made the payment request.