The Payment Services Directive (PSD2), introduces new rules on how the payment services are going to be governed. Strong Consumer Authentication (SCA) implements new standards where (Article 97) the payer: (a) accesses its payment account online; (b) initiates
an electronic payment transaction; (c) carries out any action through a remote channel which may imply a risk of payment fraud or other abuses.
SCA is based (Article 4, RTS) on two or more elements categorized as knowledge, possession, and inherence and shall result in the generation of an authentication code. However, the PSD2 or the supplementary report on regulatory technical standards (RTS)
regarding SCA does not explain how the authentication must be used or the limitations and scope of the authentication code.
Let’s first look at what the PSD2 says. Recital 96 in the PSD2 equates the authentication code to a one-time password, and it is the only mention of the term ‘authentication code’ in the whole of the Second Payment Services Directive. Whereas, the FAQ that
accompanies the PSD2 gives an example that a possession element for the SCA might be a device that generates the authentication code.
The inconsistencies in the meaning of the authentication code are rather obvious. The FAQ states that the ‘authentication code’ is used to confirm the payer holds the ‘possession element’ for the SCA. Article 4 of the RTS gives us the impression that the
confirmation of the two elements would generate the authentication code, which then would be used to initiate the payment.
For now, let us assume that the authentication code is a password that is generated once the two elements have been confirmed. Then it is unclear how the authentication code confirms the initiation of the payment whether it would be, as a recital 96 states,
as a one-time password, or whether it would be a code that would be sent to the payment initiator without the payer manually entering the code. The latter view has been held by companies like VISA Europe, which have added an ending to Article 4 of the RTS.
According to them, ‘two or more factors based on possession, knowledge or inherence shall result in the generation of an “authentication code” to the payer’s PSP that is only accepted once by the PSP for the same payment services user’.
The use of authentication becomes interesting when you think about the practical aspect of electronic payments at the point of sale or face-to-face situations. The SCA, according to the PSD2 Article 97, applies to all electronic payments. The only exemption
to the SCA at the ‘point of sale’ transactions applies to the contactless payments and there is no exemption to the ‘chip and pin’ payment method for the application of SCA. Even though, the ‘chip and pin’ method might satisfy the two-element requirement (the
electronic bank card being the ‘possession element’ and the pin being the ‘knowledge element’), with the RTS supplementing the PSD2 there will be the need of generating the authentication code. It is difficult to imagine a situation where in addition to inserting
your card to the terminal and putting your PIN in you will also receive a message with an authentication code that you will have to enter for the payment service provider. Such impracticality of the chip and pin technology is redundant today.
Why are the authentication code and its use so unclear? Visa, amongst others, believes that in order to preserve innovation and respect the principle of technological neutrality, the RTS should not set an exhaustive list of features for the “authentication
code”. The principle that is reiterated time and time again in the final draft of the RTS.
The ‘final draft of the RTS’ is the place where the final answer is found. The answer to the question 272 part 4 is set out as ‘The EBA is of the view that chip and PIN transactions are not non-compliant with SCA provided that they are of DDA standard (Dynamic
Data Authentication) or higher. It is, however, up to the providers and issuers to assess whether or not their systems comply with PSD2 as well as the RTS requirements.’ Even though the answer, like everything else, does not use determinative language, tells
us that ‘chip and pin’ may remain a viable option for the future ‘point of sale’ transactions and that the authentication code is sent to the payer’s PSP once the payer passes the two-factor authentication.
However, it is worth pointing out that the PSD2 practically eliminates the use of magnetic stripe bank cards as a payment mechanism at the point of sale situations.