EMV and Retail – Your Trusted Advisor Should Be Advising You about This
There is ‘big change a comin’ for retailers, merchants and any business that accepts credit cards for payments, and there are a great many businesses that are completely unprepared for it. The change, what is being referred to as the “Payment Networks’ Liability Shift”, goes in to effect in October 2015 and places the burden of liability for fraud squarely on the shoulders of the merchants and card issuers who are not compliant with certain payment system security standards. Accounting professionals and Trusted Advisors – here’s one of those things you should be helping your clients with. Help them get informed, trained, and prepared. Help them to understand the risk and decide on a course of action. This is part of what makes a trusted advisor: they got your back.
The way things generally work in the US today, a fraudulent charge on a credit card is likely to end up being covered by the credit card company (the issuer). Starting in October, retailers are supposed to be able to accept payment cards with EMV chips (named for the founders of the standard: Europay, MasterCard and Visa), and must process those cards using the compliant technology that takes advantage of what the chip processing and security offers. If these conditions aren’t met – like having a POS or payment terminal not capable of reading the EMV chip – the merchant is on the hook for the fraudulent transaction. Given the volume of credit card and payments fraud in the country you’d think that most merchants would already be ready for this, but replacing all the POS and terminal equipment could be pretty costly. It may take a bit of analysis to understand the real risk and compare that to the cost of compliance. Certainly it makes sense to always be in compliance, but there are always factors which influence how quickly (or how completely) compliance may be met.
The liability shift is part of the influence being leveraged to get businesses to adopt newer and more secure models of electronic payment acceptance and processing. It is simply the case that the magnetic strip on a credit card isn’t good enough any longer. The new EMV Chip reading payment terminals require that the card be inserted and processed by the terminal rather than simply swiping the magstrip across a reader. Over 40 years of using the magstrip approach has helped to earn the United States a top spot on the leaderboard for credit card and financial fraud, and we seem to be lagging behind in adoption and implementation of the EMV technology even though it has been shown to seriously curtail fraud even as payment card usage increases. The EMV chip process, which encrypts information about the card so that even the local POS system doesn’t get access to it, is far more secure and is being widely adopted and used in Europe, Canada, Latin America and the Asia/Pacific regions. Now the clock is ticking for US businesses to get ready to either update their systems or accept the liability for not doing so.
The shift in how payment cards are made and processed is simply one of many changes which will continue to occur as technology and human ingenuity continue to be applied in both good and not-so-good ways. Recognizing that the pace of change is increasing, businesses must find ways to remain informed and prepare for those changes which will impact the business operation and sustainability. This is among the essential roles the trusted advisor plays, and the current imperative simply underscores the growing need for such advisors by business large and small.