Did Visa Pad Their PCI Numbers?

Apr 09, 2015

Do merchant acquirers pad their Payment Card Industry (PCI) numbers? A new Merchant Acquirers’ Committee study shows that PCI compliance numbers by many of the largest merchants in the United States are far lower than numbers reported by Visa Inc. The PCI Security Standards Council provides a long list of data-protection rules that merchants who utilize general credit and debit cards have to comply with, however the card networks must enforce the security measures.

Visa and MasterCard Inc. must delegate responsibility to their merchants to meet PCI standards. Last June, Visa reported compliance rates at a much higher rate than the MAC study. Visa showed compliance validation at an estimated 450 Level 1 merchants at 97%. To become a Level 1 retailer, a company must create more than 6 million Visa transactions annually.

The Visa report also stated that compliance validation for about 972 Level 2 merchants were at 88%. This level of merchant processes 1 million to 6 million Visa transactions every year. Unfortunately, the MAC study revealed some different results. Their study estimates that Level 1 merchants’ compliance was only 67% and Level 2 merchant compliance was at around 69%.

What could account for the differences in the numbers? Data-security experts state that differences can arise because networks rely too heavily on acquirer reports. It is suggested that acquirers may pad the numbers to avoid being penalized by networks.

In addition, experts think that many of the PCI structures are vague. For example, a merchant may not fulfill all 200 PCI requirements, but may only represent a low security risk so the acquirer may report the merchant as compliant. Visa representatives are not available to make comments about the disparities between their reports and the MAC reports.

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