Filed Under: Banking and Finance, Money, Payment Cards, Payments

Friday the 13th: PSD2 SCA Cometh

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On Friday 13th September this year, the full force of PSD2 Strong Customer Authentication (SCA) comes into force. Anecdotally the lack of readiness of the card payment industry is beginning to suggest that the immediate impact may well look like the aftermath of a dinner party hosted by Jason Voorhees.

To summarise: after 13th September 2019 (yes, that’s in just over 3 months) account holding banks must require two factor authentication compliant with PSD2 SCA on all electronic payments, including all remote card payments, unless an applicable exemption is triggered. There are no exceptions allowed to this, there is no concept of merchants choosing to take liability and avoiding SCA. In the event that a merchant attempts a transaction without SCA and the issuing bank determines that no exemption applies or that there is significant risk associated with the payment the bank must decline and request the merchant to perform a step-up authentication.

Currently, the only real option open to merchants for performing SCA for online card payments is 3DS. To support all of the PSD2 exemptions – which are needed to provide a near frictionless payment experience – the very latest version, 3DS2.2, must be used. As it stands, however, 3DS2.2 will not be ready, so the initial implementation of this will be sub-optimal.

So, come 14th September this year what will happen?

Figures are hard to come by, but within Europe we believe that 75% of merchants don’t implement 3DS today. We also believe that about a fifth of large issuers are taking a hard line in order to be compliant with the regulations and will decline all non-3DS transactions. Even where the issuer is taking a more subtle approach they will request step-up SCA on somewhere between 1 in 5 and 1 in 10 transactions.  On top of this, if the merchant does not support 3DS and the issuer authorises anyway any fraud is the merchant’s responsibility: for non-complying merchants this is a lose-lose-lose proposition.

Given this woeful state of preparedness there’s some industry hope that the regulators may take a relaxed view of compliance come September. Certainly there are representations being made in Brussels, but we think it’s unlikely there’ll be any relief from that direction: (1) the migration date is written into law, national regulators cannot alter it and (2) many issuers will implement PSD2 fully regardless of any softening of the implementation. We suspect that there may be some movement from national regulators since the alternative may be unthinkable, but travelling hopefully doesn’t look like much of a strategy, especially if you’re an e-com retailer or PSP.

Going forward there are a wide range of solutions being developed which will mitigate the impact of SCA on cardholders. Ultimately 3DS is not the only solution, but it is the only pervasive one and it certainly is the only one available in the current time frames.

What can merchants do to avoid carnage in September? Well, as a matter of urgency they need to engage with their PSPs to ensure that they’re capable of supporting 3DS. Given that there’s likely to be a last minute rush the earlier this happens the better. Secondly, to meet 3DS requirements they need to be capturing a range of customer data to feed into the underlying risk management processes (which, of course, needs to be GDPR compliant). And finally, they need to be working on a proper PSD2 SCA strategy that ensures, going forward, that they can minimise the impact on their customers, provide the minimum friction in the payments process and maximise transaction completion.

Here at Chyp we’ve spent the last two years helping Issuers, Schemes, Acquirers, PSPs and merchants prepare – so although the impact across the payments industry may be patchy, we know there will be winners as well as losers. If the worst case comes to pass then the only merchants likely to escape the bloodbath come September are those taking action now. And there’s unlikely to be any downside to immediate action – PSD2 has been in the works for over five years, the SCA implementation date has been known for over a year, and there’s little indication that the European Commission intends to undo or loosen the regulations.

Friday 13th is coming, best make sure you’re prepared …

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One thought on “Friday the 13th: PSD2 SCA Cometh”

  1. cam.ross@eckoh.com' Cam Ross says:

    Merchants will be (rightly) annoyed with recent missives from PSPs which broadly say “It’s mandatory that you put in place PSD2 SCA. We’ll give you instructions *in a few months* about how to integrate that into your payment flow.”

    These communications neatly overlook the complex testing and dev cycles which retailers have in place in order to avoid ecommerce failures with major updates.

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