More than seven months after the EMV liability shift, the majority of U.S. retail locations still haven’t upgraded their payment terminals to accept chip cards, with some small and midsize businesses citing the difficulty of getting their equipment tested and certified by appropriate organizations.
Sen. Dick Durbin (D.-Ill.) this week sent a letter to the Federal Trade Commission, asking it to look into whether backlogs in the EMV certification process are preventing merchants from accepting chip cards. After Oct. 1, 2015, merchants still accepting magnetic stripe transactions technology became liable for counterfeit card on those purchases.
According to Durbin, many small and midsize businesses have invested in EMV-capable payment terminals, but lengthy delays in getting hardware and software certified for use are a major roadblock preventing them from switching on chip-card processing.
“The EMV certification process is opaque and confusing,” Durbin said, noting that each of the payment card networks requires payment processors and terminal makers to test and certify the hardware for network-specific requirements based on specifications set by EMVCo, which the networks own.
Some of the technical specifications for processing debit cards became available only late last year, adding to delays, Durbin noted.
“So far only a fraction of merchants who have sought certifications have been able to obtain them, and the merchants who have been stuck in the certification queue are at increased risk of being victimized by fraud,” Durbin said.
Durbin asked the FTC to look into the EMV certification process and within 30 days provide answers to a series of questions about what’s causing the delays.
Getting formal EMV certification is only one challenge merchants face in upgrading their terminals to support EMV. Payment technology experts say midsize merchants with multiple terminals and different locations have it toughest, because of the cost and complexity of making changes to their internal payment systems.
For small retailers with a single location, upgrading to EMV can be as simple as downloading a software update. Large organizations often have a dedicated information technology team to handle the back-office processes, which many midsize retailers lack.
It’s not the first time Durbin has intervened on behalf of merchants in connection with the EMV shift. In March, Durbin sent a letter to EMVCo seeking information about that organization’s role in driving EMV adoption. In that letter, he also dug into the question of whether PINs should be required for authorizing all credit and debit card transactions, a practice that’s widespread in Europe. In the U.S., card network policies allow issuers to forgo the use of a PIN.
Separately, Walmart this week sued Visa over its support of signature-only verification for EMV cards, a policy the retailer says results in lower security and higher costs.
Recent data from Aite Group suggests that 81% of all credit cards and 57% of debit cards will be chip-enabled by the end of this year, but the vast majority of retail locations are not yet chip-enabled.
Since the liability shift went into effect last year, many merchants have complained of a sharp uptick in chargebacks for transactions, which could include counterfeit card fraud previously shouldered by banks.