PHOENIX – Even though U.S. merchants and acquirers have known about the looming deadline for EMV-chip card adoption for three years, their progress has been slow.

In a year, the card networks shift fraud liability to the party not prepared to handle EMV transactions. It is highly unlikely that timeline will be met by 100% of companies, but fraudsters are already working to exploit any vulnerabilities they see, card network executives say.

And, it seems, few are picking up their pace as the deadline nears, said Bob Woodbury, senior vice president and general manager of the NYCE network, during an executive panel discussion this week at SourceMedia's PayThink conference.

"We foresee a lot of delays in getting equipment and processes certified for EMV," Woodbury said.

For companies that haven't started shifting to EMV technology, it may be too late to meet the card networks' October 2015 deadline but it's not too late to get EMV in place for the future, said Dave Schneider, president of Pulse, Discover's debit network.

"The technology is complex, but it is not an unknown," Schneider said. "The ability to do EMV in a straightforward way is possible."

Of more concern might be the education process that an EMV migration carries, particularly for consumers, Schneider said.

Through its EMV migrations in other parts of the world, MasterCard has learned the consequences of a customer not being taught about how EMV works, said Leland S. Englebardt II, MasterCard's group head of global network products.

The EMV process calls for the consumer to insert the payment card in a reader and wait for the transaction to complete before taking back the card. This is a departure from the fast card swipe that U.S. consumers are used to.

"Consumers now are on auto-pilot with the card swipe," Englebardt said. "If you want them to behave differently, you have to be proactive, clear and relentless about reinforcing it."

Regardless of the challenges, the financial services industry has done a fairly quick about-face regarding EMV in the past year, said Bob Whyte, Visa's head of consumer products for North America.
One major hurdle, which has now been overcome, was the need for common application identifiers for routing EMV debit transactions in compliance with the Durbin amendment.

"The changes that have been made can't be underestimated, and the industry can be proud of developing the common debit application identifier," Whyte said. "That was a huge event, one not easy to get to."

Visa has launched a nationwide consumer and merchant education campaign for the EMV transition, Whyte said. "For us, EMV is a top priority now, even though we are focusing on Apple Pay and other issues as well," Whyte added.

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