The majority of U.S. retailers appear unlikely to meet the October deadline for the transition to chip-enabled credit cards.
A survey of 200 retailers at the National Retail Federation’s Big Show in New York earlier this month by ACI Worldwide, a payment software and services provider, revealed that just 12 percent of respondents were already in compliance with the so-called EMV — for Europay, MasterCard and Visa — standard.
That standard would shift the liability for purchases made with stolen or counterfeited credit cards to the merchants if they aren’t capable of processing chip-enabled cards, as opposed to banks bearing financial responsibility.
U.S. retailers made up 87 percent of the respondent sample and provided a sobering picture of merchant preparedness. Among them, 22 percent said they were still evaluating their options, 19 percent said they weren’t yet prepared and 14 percent said they “still have work to do,” ACI reported.
While 12 percent of the U.S. sample said they were already compliant, 19 percent described themselves as “very prepared” and expect to meet the October deadline.
“Data breaches are top-of-mind for retailers, which have already or are planning to increase payment security spending,” said Lynn Howard, vice president of ACI. “Yet a sizable number of those surveyed are not fully prepared for meeting EMV timelines. At the same time, consumers want assurances that their data will never be compromised when they make purchases.”
He noted that many stores are taking steps to meet the deadline, “but like any major undertaking, are trying to manage this along with other payment security, IT and technology initiatives.”
Security breaches resulting from hacking have become a growing concern for stores and their customers since the 2007 breach of The TJX Cos. Inc. Cybertheft hurt the holiday sales of 2013 victims Target Corp. and Neiman Marcus and last year hit The Home Depot and Bebe Stores.
Two-thirds of surveyed stores said that breaches had led them to budget greater investment in payment security. Forty-seven percent said they’d already increased that investment and an additional 19 percent said they would do so in the next 12 to 24 months. One in five said they hadn’t and instead were taking a “wait-and-see approach” while the remaining 14 percent had no plans to boost their investments as they felt they’d already dedicated adequate resources to the problem.
Apart from the implementation of chip-enabled point-of-sale equipment, banks and retailers are at odds on exactly how the chip cards will be processed. Both the NRF and the Retail Industry Leaders Association favor the combination of chip-enabled cards and personal identification numbers to safeguard transactions while bank groups have tended to favor the combination of a chip-enabled card and a customer’s signature.
A spokesman for ACI noted, “The deadline comes just as retailers will be gearing up for holiday selling. Noncompliance or even confusion about what consumers need to do could put seasonal sales at risk.”