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Chip and spin

15 November 2004  |  7397 views  |  0 Source: Finextra Research

Following the latest bombastic press release from the Chip and PIN public relations factory, we decided to send our undercover reporter out to see how many shops had working Chip and PIN units (until he/she reached their credit limit).

Our admittedly deeply flawed and unscientific survey of retailers in Central London painted a rather contrary image of the nation’s conversion to the new PIN-based POS payments system. In contrast to Apacs’ most recent pronouncements that Chip and PIN is now "part of everyday life", we found a groundswell of retailer antipathy to the new technology.

Here are some of the more printable views:

Next: "We tried it but it didn't work"
Tesco: "Sorry the reader thing's fallen off"
HMV: "Chip and what?"

Shop assistants at national book chain Waterstones seemed deeply confused by the new system, asking our mystery shopper for both a PIN and signature.

It’s all strangely reminiscent of the card industry’s late, unlamented, Secure Electronic Transaction standard for online credit card shopping. While Visa and the like buried journalists under a deluge of positive PR, technology triallists at pilot banks found the PKI-based technology cumbersome and unwieldy. When reality eventually overtook hype, the SET standard was quietly retired to make way for simpler password-based verification systems, such as Verified by Visa and MasterCard SecureCode.

The Chip and PIN programme is unlikely to fall victim to a similar fate. For a start, this is not an untested technology. In countries where PIN entry has replaced signature checks at the merchant point-of-sale both retailers and consumers have found the system efficient and effective in beating fraudsters and streamlining the check-out process.

Besides, the banking industry and the larger retailers have invested too much in the technology to let it fall by the wayside.

Nonetheless, a bit more investment on retailer education programmes - and a bit of restraint in the PR department - would go some way to easing the change over.

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