Retailer sues Visa over data breach penalties

Retailer sues Visa over data breach penalties

US retailer Genesco is suing Visa to recover more than £13 million in penalties it was hit with for a 2010 data breach.

In a complaint filed last week in Tennessee, Genesco says that the penalties imposed by Visa for alleged PCI security standards failings were not authorised under the card giant's own rules and breached its own contracts with acquiring banks.

In 2010 hackers hit Genesco's systems, installing "packet sniffing" software designed to steal payment card details. However, the firm says in its complaint - published by Wired - that it found no forensic evidence that account data was stolen.

Despite this, Visa fined the retailer's acquiring banks Fifth Third Bank and Wells Fargo $5000 each and levied another $13.3 million to cover operating expenses and fraudulent charges made to the accounts. The banks then took the money from Genesco's accounts.

The retailer says that it did not violate PCI rules. It maintains that the "packet sniffing" software in its systems was designed to taking advantage of a PCI DSS protocol feature which means that the account data needed to approve a mag-stripe transaction can be transmitted unencrypted.

In fact, the complaint says that Visa levied the penalties despite the fact that several of its own requirements - including that there was a PCI violation that enabled the theft and that details of at least 10,000 accounts were stolen - were not met.

The case has echos of an earlier suit filed against US Bank by the owners of Cisero's Ristorante and Nightclub in Park City, Utah. Cisero's is pursuing the bank for $90,000 in fines levied by Visa and MasterCard over an alleged PCI breach. The Genesco suit is the first to be filed against the card schemes which oversee the PCI standard.

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