By Patrick Avenell

SYDNEY: The big banks, in association with the four major credit cards, announced today the PEN or PIN, a scheme that seeks to make credit card payment safer and easier for both the retailer and the consumer. The response from retailers has been underwhelming.

Previously, a credit card payment could only be authorised by signing a receipt. From today onwards, customers can elect to authorise their purchased by entering in a code, similar to when paying via EFTPOS.

PEN or PIN project manager Simon Greig was very enthusiastic in appraisal of the innovation.

“[This will] speed up transaction times and make the entire process of paying in person more efficient for everyone involved,” said Greig.

One half of all those involved are the retailers, and they were much less effusive about the plan.

“It won’t have any effect,” said JB Hi Fi chief executive Richard Uechtritz. When further pressed, Uechtritz said that its motivation, to reduce fraud, was a benefit for security.

These sentiments were shared by Harvey Norman Caringbah 2IC (admin) Phillip McLean. “[In terms of fraud] it is safer for the store.”

This level of safety, however, is relative, with McLean also saying that incidences of fraud were at a “surprisingly low volume.”

McLean concluded by saying the scheme would have “not really any effect” on the retail outlet.

The outlook was even less encouraging in Fortitude Valley, Brisbane, where CL Electronics bookkeeper Kathy (surname withheld) said, “I didn’t even know about it.”

When explained how it worked, her comments echoed her counterparts.

“It wouldn’t make any difference,” said Kathy.

When asked about preparation for today’s rollout, there were mixed responses. McLean responded that staff had been advised yesterday of the new system, with centralised training material distributed. Uechtritz said greater dissemination of information would occur in due time. CL Electronics at Fortitude Valley were totally unprepared for the news when contacted today.

When contacted PEN or PIN to pass on these views, Greig was not surprised. He said that it was the individual bank branches’ responsibility to inform and educate the retailers, and that these branches should be contacting all their retail clients this week.

Asked about the lack of enthusiasm for the scheme in general, Greig was adamant this was just a “perception issue”. He continued to explain that in-house testing proved that using a PIN instead of signing the transaction record was at least five seconds faster per customer. This may not be as important to an appliance retailer who takes great care and time with each customer, but for a supermarket or high-traffic retailer, those five seconds throughout the day add up.