Wal-Mart Sues Visa Over Chip Card Verification

The retailer says Visa is encouraging fraud by requiring it to allow customers to verify transactions with a signature rather than a PIN.
Matthew HellerMay 11, 2016

Wal-Mart Stores has sued Visa over its policy for verifying chip-enabled debit card transactions, saying the payments giant is favoring shoppers’ convenience at the expense of their security.

In court papers filed Tuesday, Wal-Mart said Visa’s requirement that shoppers be allowed to verify with a signature, rather than a PIN, encourages fraud — and makes it more expensive for the retailer to process transactions.

“This suit is about protecting our customers’ bank accounts when they use their debit cards at Walmart,” a Wal-Mart spokesman said in an emailed statement to media outlets. “We believe Visa’s position creates unacceptable risk to customers, and its actions and rules are inconsistent with federal law.”

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The suit says PIN verification is “significantly more secure and less prone to fraud than signature verification. Signatures can be forged or copied, and cashiers may forget to check the signature on a receipt or [point-of-sale] terminal to make sure it matches the signature on the back of the card.”

Signature verification is also more costly for Wal-Mart, the suit says. Wal-Mart pays Visa about five cents more per signature transaction than it does for those that use a PIN, according to The Wall Street Journal.

Wal-Mart was one of the first big retailers in the U.S. to start accepting chip cards last year, declining transactions if a customer refused to enter a PIN. Visa insisted that it allow for signatures, citing the terms of its contract with the retailer.

Chip cards are considered much more difficult to hack because they create one-time codes to process every transaction, but Visa says some shoppers want the flexibility of signing rather than having to remember a PIN.

Wal-Mart’s lawsuit “is the latest salvo between the two companies, which have sued each other multiple times over assorted payments issues,” the WSJ said. “It also could stoke the continuing debate about how to balance security and convenience with the new generation of chip-enabled cards.”

Debit card transactions account for more than 70% of the dollars spent with credit and debit cards at Walmart.

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