Mobile Payment Acceptance Devices

We attended the merchant payment ecosystem 2012 in Berlin. We can actually recommend to visit this show because they always have excellent speakers and you can meet the whole European acquiring industry in one place.
This year mobile commerce was a big thing. I am still astound how fast new mobile phone acceptance terminals are being built. Square and iZettle are inspiring the whole industry. What happens is, that more and more company’s are attaching either a magstripe or a chip reader to an iPhone. To make it easy for the merchant you don’t even need a contract with an acquirer. You just set up an account with the company that delivers the reader and you are ready to accept payments. Until now my understanding was, that it was almost illegal to be a central “super-merchant” and accepting payments for many small merchants. I also thought, that chip and pin is the desired solution for the card industry. And now we are creating a whole new market with non pin transactions that are processed through central super-merchants. Hmm. So, I think that rules and regulations as well as PCI are more recommendations than rules. Therefore I think that we are also getting such a system up and running and look what happens next. If anyone of the card industry will sponsor us, please feel free to contact us.

Are acquirers feeling the needs of their customers?

We just heard a very interesting speech of Ikea. They were mainly complaining about high commission fees on transactions. The fees vary in the different countries quite heavily. For the same transaction, they pay 35 time more in the most expensive country as than in the cheapest. And this for basicaly the same service. Ikea gave us an interesting insight in the very intransparent commission fee models of the acquring industry.

Ikea made a good point that they would like to take their portion of the risk - like own risk transactions – and therefore reduce the commission fee. But somehow they cannot discuss these topics with any acquirer. They said that they’ve made the experience that the acquirers act more like governmental organisations as than as business driven companies.
Are acquirers really feeling the needs of their customers? Or are acquirers just acting on behalf of Rules and Regulations?

Visa plans to accelerate acceptance/use of EMV cards in U.S.

EMV Deployment Map (September 2010)

In Summer 2011 Visa announced plans to accelerate the acceptance and use of EMV cards throughout the U.S. EMV cards are also known as IC or Chip cards. This announcement was no surprise as EMV has been a long accepted standard through Europe and Asia. However, to make the entire network EMV ready requires all the participants in the market to adapt their systems. Chip cards will need to be issued, the acquirer/processors must adapt their host systems and the terminals at the POS will need to be replaced.

Accompanying the announcement Visa published a road map stating the following:

  1. Visas Technology Innovation Program (TIP) will be expanded into the U.S., effective October 2012.
    This means Visa will waive the annual validation of a merchant’s PCI/DSS compliance, as long as at least 75% of the merchant’s transactions originate from dual-interface EMV terminals. Dual-interface terminals are terminals that can process contact and contactless EMV transactions.
  2. All participating acquirer/processors have to make their systems EMV ready by April 2013.
  3. Visas global POS Counterfeit Liability Shift Program will be extended into the U.S., effective October 2015 (two years later for petrol merchants).
    This program will transfer the liability for fraud originating from non-EMV transactions to the acquirer/processor, and as a result to the merchant as seen in other countries.

This plan clearly focuses on two goals:

  1. Reducing fraud.
  2. Setting the benchmark for NFC based card acceptance (for example; contactless payment by card or mobile phone).

In recent years the U.S. has been an easy target for fraud. In 2008, fraudulent transactions made up 0.04% or USD 8 billion of the complete U.S. turnover of credit card transactions. Card numbers are being stolen all across the world and used in the U.S. to commit fraud. The predominant number of magstripe POS terminals makes this a relatively easy way to commit fraud. With the adoption of the liability shift program one large fraudulent region will be eliminated, as seen in other countries that already run the program. Once this has been achieved, the question remains: Where will the fraud move next? Until chip cards are used worldwide, magstripe fraud will remain a global problem.

Interestingly, the liability shift program is a sweet deal for Visa as it will instantly and largely increase the points of acceptance for NFC based cards. Conversely, it will be a cost intensive change for the merchants as it forces them into changing their POS infrastructure into dual-interface EMV terminals. This sets the ground for Visas contactless program Pay Wave and for mobile payment. Google already provides a nice solution with its wallet, where the phone emulates an NFC payment card.

This is where we believe it gets really interesting. In contrast to Europe where cardholder authentication through PIN is usually required, Visa aims for an online / non-PIN model in the U.S. which will pave the way for contactless transactions. Wave the card and that’s it, no PIN entry required. Issuers and acquirer/processors will be happy with this, as it lessens the costs and complexity on the card and the terminal.

In contrast to all of this, one can see an increasing market for “easy” magstripe transactions. Square, amongst others, provides an easy way for merchants to accept magstripe cards. Up to April 2011 Square has seen USD137M total flow. These payment solutions target small businesses and make it very easy to accept credit cards as a merchant. Common to all these solutions are high transaction fees for the merchant and the full risk of chargebacks. What some people might not know is that Visa invested in Square. There seems to be a two way strategy in pushing the mid and large size businesses into accepting contactless EMV cards and enabling small businesses to accept credit cards on their full risk. Clearly a winner for Visa! But what do they actually do for it?

In the longer term magstripe transactions will disappear. Issuers will simply stop issuing magstripe cards. This has already started in some Eastern European countries. The main reason is fraud, but also because there is new technology that makes cards obsolete. The “card” itself might not be a “card” anymore, but a mobile phone, key fob or all sorts of mediums carrying the chip. While it may take several years to fully implement, it is interesting to wonder how small businesses will be targeted.