Safaricom launched Lipa na M-Pesa in 2013 to enable merchants to accept payments through their popular mobile payment platform, M-Pesa. The launch brought together merchant payments through PayBill and Buy Goods on one platform.

The service has been useful to both customers and merchants, providing them with an accessible payment platform for goods and services. Nowadays, you can pay using the service for almost everything from housewares to haircuts and electronics at different outlets.

Along with the service comes the inevitable need to reimburse customers in cases where they pay for a service that is not delivered or when they pay to the wrong Lipa na M-Pesa number.

This happened to me on January 5th, 2019 when I mistakenly sent money to the wrong Lipa na M-Pesa number. I was at the Blackyz bar and wanted to pay my bill. However, I entered the wrong number and the money went to Titanium Entertainment instead of Blakyz. I immediately called Safaricom and they said they would work on it and hopefully refund the money within 72 hours. It never happened.

The Safaricom process for refunds is as follows;

  • The customer files the problem
  • Safaricom contacts the merchant and asks them to confirm that the payment has been made
  • If the merchant agrees that the payment was in error or that the service was not provided, a refund is issued.

In my case the merchant said no payment was made and in the Safaricom process highlighted above that’s it and a refund is unlikely. Please note that Safaricom customer service might see the payment I made to them, but that doesn’t matter in the current process. However, I followed up and the Safaricom customer team sent me an SMS with the contacts of the merchant. I called him several times and even sent him the M-Pesa confirmation message. He insisted, however, that he had not received my payment. I asked him to contact Safaricom for confirmation but he refused. That’s when I gave up.

Fast forward to June 4, 2019 and I had a similar issue. I was paying for a purchase from LC Waikiki through CBA Loop and the app crashes and I inadvertently paid twice. The store immediately recognized him but said he was unable to refund. The manager informed that the request should come from Safaricom and that the refund would then be made. I called CBA and they told me they would contact Safaricom who would process the refund. The refund has not been made to date.

Lipa na M-Pesa’s current refund policy is not favorable to customers and requires them to prove that transactions have taken place. It also takes unnecessary time even when the merchant accepts that the transaction has taken place. In my opinion, Safaricom should adopt the chargeback model used by card companies when a transaction is in dispute. I mean they should freeze the payment until the issue is resolved. They should also allow the merchants to be able to refund the amount directly in a situation where they agree that the wrong transaction has taken place.

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