Senator Asks FTC to Examine EMV® Certification Delays

Snags in the EMV certification process continue to delay the transition to chip cards in the United States. Now a U.S. Senator has asked the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to get involved to help protect vulnerable small- and medium-sized businesses (SMBs) and consumers.

Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL) sent a letter to FTC Chairwoman Edith Ramirez in mid-May, voicing his concerns that various problems and delays in the EMV certification process are imposing costly burdens on SMBs and leaving consumers’ card transactions vulnerable to fraud. “The EMV certification process is opaque and confusing, with each card network requiring its payment processors and equipment providers to test and certify a merchant’s hardware and software for compliance with network-specific requirements that are largely derived from EMVCo specifications,” writes Durbin. “The certification process can last for months, yet some of the technical requirements were not even made available until shortly before the October 2015 shift to EMV technology.”

Durbin has been critical of the major credit card companies’ practices in the past, including their efforts to transition the U.S. payments system to EMV technology that is already the standard in many countries around the world. Specifications governing chip card technology are controlled by EMVCo, which is comprised of six member organizations: American Express®, Discover®, JCB, MasterCard®, UnionPay, and Visa®.

Earlier this year, Durbin asked EMVCo to explain whether EMV deployment in the U.S. is adequately preserving competition and protecting consumers. In a second letter to EMVCo sent just a day after his letter to the FTC, Durbin again pressed the organization for action.

“It appears that EMVCo is run by the big card networks for the big card networks,” he stated. “It is time for other stakeholders besides giant card networks to have a meaningful voice in EMVCo’s decision-making process. I urge you to begin incorporating other stakeholders into EMVCo’s governance to accomplish this goal.”

There is definitely cause for concern over the delay in implementing EMV technology—widely considered to be far more secure than traditional magnetic stripe technology—in this country. Card fraud statistics are staggering. According to a recent iovation/Aite Group study, hacked credit card fraud will reach $4 billion this year alone, and an estimated $10 billion in card fraud is expected over the next four years.

Those predictions are based in part on the actual experience of countries that have already made the move to EMV technology. While card present fraud has declined significantly in countries that have already adopted EMV, online fraud has increased. For example, the United Kingdom, which implemented EMV more than ten years ago, experienced a 79 percent jump in online fraud during the first three years after the switch. The rate more than doubled in Australia and Canada.

Of more immediate concern to many merchants is the recent jump in chargebacks for fraudulent transactions that they are experiencing. Previously, the liability for such transactions fell to the card-issuing banks. But in October of last year in-store counterfeit fraud liability shifted to the party that has not yet adopted chip technology — either the card issuing bank or the merchant. Many merchants who have installed EMV-compatible terminals at the point of sale but are still waiting for the new equipment to be certified are discovering just how quickly those fraudulent transactions and chargeback expenses are dinging their bottom line.

EMV is a registered trademark or trademark of EMVCO LLC in the United States and other countries.

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