EMV: Delays, Debates and Confusion

EMV is an important tool for combating card fraud in face-to-face (card-present) transactions. But it is not mandatory; it merely shifted fraud liability to whoever has the outdated technology – either the card issuer or the retailer. Analysts predict it will take 2-3 years before we reach a threshold of adoption here in the U.S. Here is a summary of the issues being faced with roll out of this new technology.

EMV deployment is a big expensive project; terminals need upgrading, software needs modification, clerks need training.
Small merchants were not aware of the liability shift in time to meet the deadline and feel they are still not getting the support they need.
Large retailers don’t want the painful experience of educating consumers and would rather wait until they’ve learned what to do at other stores.
There have been reports of terminal shortages. And software, even if it was ready, faced long waits for certification with each processor.
For many, their perception of risks is not enough to justify the hassle of upgrading.

Industry players are heavily debating the virtues of “Signature” vs.” PIN”. Most EMV cards are issued as signature cards because consumers are already familiar with signature credit card transactions and issuers are hoping this will encourage rapid adoption. Retail and consumer groups, on the other hand, argue that we should be implementing PIN cards (like many other countries have done) because it offers higher security.

Whether its signature or PIN, consumers are facing new ways to pay and find it confusing. Most consumers have received at least one new chip card and many merchants have EMV terminals installed. But few EMV terminals are actually enabled. Checkout delays are common as a result of consumers fumbling to determine if they should swipe, hover, wave or insert their card into the many different types of payment card devices.