Walmart sues Visa for being too lax with protecting chip cards

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Retail giant Walmart has filed suit against Visa over the ability to force chip and PIN authorization for card purchases.

In a suit filed to the New York State Court (PDF), Walmart claims that Visa is forcing it to accept customer signatures as authorization for payments when it wishes to mandate the use of PIN codes instead.

"This chip-and-PIN protocol accords with global best practices for fraud prevention: PIN verification is much more secure than signature verification," Walmart argues in the filing.

"It also enables Walmart to route transactions across PIN debit networks rather than signature debit networks, which saves Walmart (and its customers) money."

Visa declined to comment on the suit.

Though chip and PIN protections have been in use in other parts of the world for years, the technology has only recently been rolled out by US banks. Walmart says that it began trialing its chip and PIN verification systems at select stores last November, and expanded the system to 3,700 US stores in February of this year.

Though much of the complaint has been redacted, including the exact demands and conditions for relief, Walmart made clear that it wants to be able to force users to punch in their PIN numbers when making a purchase.

"This chip-and-PIN protocol was in the best interests of all concerned, particularly Walmart's customers," the retailer argues.

"For one thing, it enabled Walmart, the issuing banks, and the cardholders to get the benefit of the chip technology by requiring the use of the chip instead of the magnetic stripe; for another, it enforced more secure customer verification by requiring the customers to enter a PIN instead of permitting a signature."

While the chip-and-PIN system is generally considered more secure than signature verification, it does have some drawbacks and vulnerabilities in its own right. ®

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