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Visa To Franchisors: “We’re Here To Talk, Not To Listen”

Written by Todd L. Michaud
June 17th, 2010

Franchisee Columnist Todd Michaud has spent the last 16 years trying to fight IT issues, with the last six years focused on franchisee IT issues. He is currently responsible for IT at Focus Brands (Cinnabon, Carvel, Schlotzsky’s and Moe’s Southwestern Grill).

When it comes to PCI compliance for franchisors, Visa is completely out of touch with reality.

Well, perhaps not completely out of touch with reality. But based on a 9-hour Visa Franchisor Payment Systems Security Symposium on Wednesday (June 16), the brand is pretty darn close.

With high hopes, I spent Wednesday at the sessions. I was excited about the opportunity to finally have my voice heard about the specific struggles that franchisors face, in addition to learning how to better face these challenges. As it turns out, I was not given the opportunity to do either of these things. (Remind me next time to ask for a detailed agenda before I book a coast-to-coast flight.)

Instead, the morning was spent providing horror stories about how the sophisticated Russian organized crime syndicates responsible for the lion’s share of breaches operate. The afternoon, meanwhile, was spent talking–indirectly–about what role tokenization and encryption may or may not play in the future of card data protection. Retailers representing more than 50,000 domestic locations were all in the same room, and not once were we asked our thoughts and opinions on the matter. What a wasted opportunity.

The entire payment industry is complicit in allowing Level 4 merchants to bury their heads in the sand and proclaim: “This information security mumbo-jumbo is too complicated for little ole me. How’s a poor sandwich maker supposed to know about stateful packet inspection firewalls?”

Too much money is on the line, with everyone getting a cut, to play hardball. The response should be: “If you want to keep processing credit cards, then you are going to have to learn all about it.” With 92 percent of all reported breaches in the first quarter of 2010 affecting Level 4 merchants, you would think someone would take the hard line. Instead it appears the approach is to pull in franchisors in an attempt to offset the burden to them.


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