Bank Lobbyist: High Debit Interchange Needed To Pay For Retail Security Breaches

Written by Frank Hayes
May 16th, 2011

What’s the real price of a security breach? Customers aren’t usually driven away when a retailer loses payment card data, and the financial costs are usually painful but not crippling. But if one Beltway lobbyist gets its way, the price of security failure will be higher interchange fees for debit cards—not just for breach victims, but all retailers. The Center for Regulatory Effectiveness asked the Federal Reserve Board last Friday (May 13) to raise interchange rates, which were pushed down by last year’s Dodd-Frank Act. The argument: Retail security breaches cause unreimbursed costs for card-issuing banks, and banks need high interchange rates to pay those costs.

If the Fed buys the argument, that would certainly put a real pricetag on security failures. Of course, that price would have no relationship at all to whether a retailer had lousy security—everyone would see higher debit interchange fees, whether you’re locked down tight or leaking data everywhere. And the lobbying outfit used one other nice touch: Instead of asking the Fed directly to raise interchange rates, it sent a letter to the Fed’s CIO, asking her to make the pitch. Hey, they had to try somebody.


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Why Did Gonzales Hackers Like European Cards So Much Better?

I am still unclear about the core point here-- why higher value of European cards. Supply and demand, yes, makes sense. But the fact that the cards were chip and pin (EMV) should make them less valuable because that demonstrably reduces the ability to use them fraudulently. Did the author mean that the chip and pin cards could be used in a country where EMV is not implemented--the US--and this mis-match make it easier to us them since the issuing banks may not have as robust anti-fraud controls as non-EMV banks because they assumed EMV would do the fraud prevention for them Read more...
Two possible reasons that I can think of and have seen in the past - 1) Cards issued by European banks when used online cross border don't usually support AVS checks. So, when a European card is used with a billing address that's in the US, an ecom merchant wouldn't necessarily know that the shipping zip code doesn't match the billing code. 2) Also, in offline chip countries the card determines whether or not a transaction is approved, not the issuer. In my experience, European issuers haven't developed the same checks on authorization requests as US issuers. So, these cards might be more valuable because they are more likely to get approved. Read more...
A smart card slot in terminals doesn't mean there is a reader or that the reader is activated. Then, activated reader or not, the U.S. processors don't have apps certified or ready to load into those terminals to accept and process smart card transactions just yet. Don't get your card(t) before the terminal (horse). Read more...
The marketplace does speak. More fraud capacity translates to higher value for the stolen data. Because nearly 100% of all US transactions are authorized online in real time, we have less fraud regardless of whether the card is Magstripe only or chip and PIn. Hence, $10 prices for US cards vs $25 for the European counterparts. Read more...
@David True. The European cards have both an EMV chip AND a mag stripe. Europeans may generally use the chip for their transactions, but the insecure stripe remains vulnerable to skimming, whether it be from a false front on an ATM or a dishonest waiter with a handheld skimmer. If their stripe is skimmed, the track data can still be cloned and used fraudulently in the United States. If European banks only detect fraud from 9-5 GMT, that might explain why American criminals prefer them over American bank issued cards, who have fraud detection in place 24x7. Read more...

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