We have been clear from the start that the date fixed by the card networks for liability shift was far too aggressive and essentially resulted in a Christmas present to card issuers.
Merchants in markets outside the U.S. were often provided with some financial assistance by the networks in the form of reduced interchange or hardware subsidies. They were also given substantially more time to make the switch to EMV.
In contrast, in the U.S., the largest and most complex card market in the world, merchants were provided the shortest period of time to move to EMV with no financial incentives, while the date for liability shift was the beginning of the busiest shopping season of the year.
Still, probably the most damning aspect of all is the fact that the networks acted without even being in a position to provide merchants with specifications for accepting EMV debit in accordance with U.S. law, forcing many merchants to have to choose between liability for counterfeit fraud and their legal rights to process debit purchases through the least expensive route which is often a route to the PIN debit networks that compete with the international networks for debit switching.
Further exacerbating an already disastrous EMV conversion is the fact that there are inadequate technical resources available to U.S. merchants to move through the process of upgrading, testing and certifying their POS systems.
Many merchants that had planned to be converted to EMV either on or shortly after 10/1/15 found themselves waiting in line for the resources to be available and have been punished by the networks and the issuers through the one-sided and archaic chargeback processes that greatly favor issuers at the expense of merchants.
We are very concerned that some issuers are using the confusion and the complexity of the EMV debacle to recover bad loans through the chargeback process. Also, some issuers appear to be conducting almost no due diligence when charging back purchases from cardholders claiming their cards were lost or stolen or that they were unhappy with their purchases (which encourages fraudsters).
U.S. merchants are starting to conclude that not only are they paying the highest prices in the world for card acceptance (7-10 times what their European counterparts pay for credit card purchases), but they now no longer can be assured that a purchase authorized by a card issuer will result in a completed sale.
Mark Horwedel is CEO of the Merchant Advisory Group.