Is the rocky road to EMV retail adoption getting smoother?

Sharon Goldman

V Payment

There was plenty of confusion to go around in October 2015, with only a small percentage of retailers ready to roll when the deadline passed for them to become EMV-compliant by installing new EMV-capable credit card readers and acquiring certifications from various payment networks.

Now that over a year, and two holiday seasons, have passed by, the question is: Where does retail stand with EMV? The answer, says experts, is that it’s been a rocky road, but there have been improvements in adoption and an ongoing evolution in implementation.

The good news is, consumers are starting to adapt to the new normal — their first instinct now is to insert a chip, not swipe. In addition, Visa and Mastercard implemented new quick-chip technology last summer, to make the processing time faster for consumers.

“One of the biggest complaints off the bat was that EMV was too slow, taking 10-15 seconds,” says Perry Kramer, vice president and practice lead at Boston Retail Partners. “Now the EMV transactions have really gone back to the same speed as what it used to be with swipe transaction — from the consumer point of view, it has sped up dramatically.”

Retailers, on the other hand, have struggled to get up to speed with EMV and have dealt with a variety of challenges, particularly due to vendor delays and the liability shift that has left them on the hook for chargebacks. “Those that weren’t ready really got thrown into panic mode,” Kramer says. “The amount of chargebacks, in terms of dollars and quantity, far exceeded anyone’s expectations.”


Obstacles along the way to EMV

According to an National Retail Federation (NRF) survey conducted last year, 9 percent of merchants had implemented EMV during 2015 and 39 percent had done so by June 30, 2016. By the end of 2016 86 percent were expected to have implemented EMV and 99 percent expect to have done so by the end of 2017.

Why the slow rollout? The biggest obstacle to EMV implementation was the card industry’s delays in certifying the EMV equipment retailers installed, says Craig Shearman, vice president of government affairs public relations at the NRF. “The equipment’s chip functions can’t be turned on until it has been certified, but the card industry failed to provide sufficient personnel or other resources to get that done in a timely fashion,” he explains, which left millions of EMV chip readers sitting next to cash registers that could still only be used to swipe cards.

In addition, there have been hiccups related to debit card usage with EMV: Kroger filed a lawsuit against Visa regarding debit transactions — the grocery chain wanted to require PIN-based verification on debit chip cards, which did not comply with Visa regulations — while Walmart and Home Depot filed similar suits.

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