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Fortnum & Mason’s PCI Weakness: Customer Service

January 25th, 2012

It was a good, contrite statement and fully appropriate. But the next part of the statement is a bit more troubling: “Fortnum & Mason take the handling of customer personal information and data extremely seriously. We comply fully with the Payment Card Industry (PCI) Data Security Standard for both payment card and consumer financial data protection and have procedures in place to ensure these standards are met. We do not hold any customer credit card details.”

On its own, those sentiments are fine. But when combined with the confession made a sentence or two earlier, it’s disconcerting. The only reason this one customer service rep incident came to light was because someone went to the media with a copy of that E-mail. If there was one incident, what makes Fortnum & Mason so certain that there aren’t many more out there? Indeed, until new training and other mechanisms are put in place, logic would suggest that there almost certainly are other similar situations happening, unless there was something unusual about this one rep. Otherwise, if all of the training and management is the same, wouldn’t that suggest similar results?

And if that is happening, how can it be said that Fortnum & Mason does “comply fully with the Payment Card Industry (PCI) Data Security Standard for both payment card and consumer financial data protection” when such requests are clearly contrary to PCI rules?

The statement said that the retailer has “procedures in place to ensure these standards are met.” Not so sure how this could be ensured. If a customer service rep makes the request and if the customer complies, you have a violation. Management can tell reps to not do that and calls can be periodically monitored, but this is not something that can ever be fully halted.

To be clear, this Fortnum & Mason situation is quite likely an isolated problem. But the certainty from corporate that this can’t happen again is eerily similar to the associate’s faith in his/her ability to permanently delete information. In short, all that card data rules can do is reduce the fraud probability, because it can never go away. The belief from any player that any mechanism can eliminate that risk, that’s where the problems kick in.


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