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It's kind of appalling actually that a merchant could issue such a appears that any merchant with any dispute could use that threat as leaverage?

Of course they can, since any merchant could be a small one-person type shop, who might not even read the contract they agreed to when they agreed to accept CC payments.

What responsibility do the bureaus have to mediate or remove these spurious negative (but potentially false) entries?

Credit bureaus don't have to, so it becomes the burden on the indivdual to prove proof. In this particular case, you should keep copies of any correspondence between you and your CC company in case you need proof you disputed the charge with your CC company and they decided in your favor.

Something similar happened to me last spring. I ordered a set of curtains from - not knowing Sears' website was actually selling these for another merchant (kind of like Amazon marketplace). When I got the curtains the color didn't look good in-person, so I checked the site for Returns, and shipped them UPS. About a week later I got an email from UPS saying they couldn't deliver them to the address I had given and needed a new address. I emailed Sears explaining the address I gave and included a copy of the email I got from UPS, but they only responded with the same exact address. So I disputed the charge with my CC under the claim that the website says I can return the item, I attempted to using UPS, but UPS is saying they can't deliver it to that address and the merchant won't give me a different address. The dispute was found in my favor, got a credit on my CC for the charge, and I haven't heard anything further from the merchant or seen anything on my credit reports.
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