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Gas stations get 3-year extension on EMV transition

Kelly Dilworth

If you’re usually in a hurry when you’re pumping gas and don’t want to wait an extra 15 seconds or more for an EMV reader to process your card payment, it now will be a few more years before you’re asked to insert an EMV chip card.

Visa and Mastercard announced Dec. 1 they’re putting off the deadline for gas station operators to switch to EMV-enabled payments to 2020 – a full three years after gas stations were supposed to make the switch.

The card networks offered gas stations a longer deadline than most retailers for switching to EMV because it’s typically much more difficult for new card processing technology to be installed in gas pumps. The majority of retail locations in the United States were given until October 2015 to migrate to EMV or face liability for card-present fraud. Gas stations, by contrast, were originally given until Oct. 1, 2017, to make the change.

“The fuel segment has its own unique challenges, which we recognized when we first set the chip activation date for automated fuel dispensers/pumps two years after regular in-store locations,” Visa said in a statement. “For instance, in some cases, older pumps may need to be replaced before adding chip readers, requiring specialized vendors and breaking into concrete.”

Greg Taylor, a spokesman for the gas station advocacy group Conexxus, said that gas station owners were also having trouble getting their equipment properly set up and certified, causing even further delays.

“I believe that the card brands have come to believe that these challenges are not of retailer creation, but a result of late specifications, certification complexity and supply chain constraints, rather than a lack of resolve to adopt EMV,” Taylor said in a statement.

A bumpy road for U.S. EMV
A number of other U.S. retailers have also had a hard time transitioning to EMV so far — in part because card companies have been slow to approve and certify retailers’ equipment. According to a September 2016 survey by the consulting firm Strawhecker Group, more than half of all merchants that accept card payments – roughly 56 percent – still don’t accept EMV-enabled payments.

Payment executives had predicted retailers would transition to chip card payments more quickly, but many retailers have been slowed by widespread certification delays. “EMV terminal vendor supply and delays in the terminal activation/certification process are the bottlenecks in the migration,” the Strawhecker Group’s Jared Drieling said in a statement.

Meanwhile, consumers have complained about the slower nature of EMV credit and debit card transactions, which typically take several seconds longer than cards with traditional magnetic stripes.

According to a September 2016 survey by the payment processing company Square, 87 percent of survey respondents said they were annoyed by how much slower chip card payments are than traditional card payments with magnetic stripes.

“Consumers were most frustrated with slow lines at checkout,” Square said in a white paper about its findings. “Thirty-seven percent of those surveyed said this was a top pain point when shopping in stores. In an era of instant gratification from online shopping and on-demand apps, this annoyance is not surprising.”

See related: Video: How EMV chips are made

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