WASHINGTON (3/17/08)—There is a great divide between the proactive credit union stance and the bankers’ sideline approach to pushing state legislatures for laws to hold merchants accountable if they fail to protect the personal financial information of consumers. An article in the March 14 American Banker
noted that bankers are fearful that if they push to put the burden of data breaches on lax merchants, then retail groups might retaliate by pressing on the state level for laws to limit credit card interchange fees. “So credit unions, which mainly serve individuals, have been leading the charge to hold merchants liable if they do not comply with standards that require such things as data encryption,” the article said. “If they fail to safeguard data, then they should bear some of the costs incurred because of that failure,” Chris Johnson, vice president of state governmental affairs at the Credit Union National Association, told the paper. Also noted in the article:
* In Michigan, credit union officials and bankers are “working more closely.” Michigan CU League CEO David Adams said a merchant liability bill introduced there has a “high likelihood of passing” before a Dec. 31 adjournment of the state legislature. * Justin Hupfer, vice president of governmental affairs for the Iowa CU League, said his group is willing to give merchants a chance to voluntarily bolster their security standards and would be willing to table their merchant liability bill. However, Hupfer added, if the merchants don’t make any real progress, the credit unions would push again for codification of standards. * In Wisconsin, credit unions plan to work with retail and banking groups to draft a 2009 version of their bill that would address some of those groups’ concerns, according to Thomas Liebe, vice president of governmental affairs at the Wisconsin CU League. * Also, in Minnesota, which was the first to adopt a merchant liability law when it passed the Plastic Card Security Act in May 2007, Mara Humphrey said the law in her state could cover merchants in other states. Humphrey, who is vice president of governmental affairs for the Minnesota CU League, said the law applies to any merchant doing business in the state. “Our intention was to make the language broad enough so that anyone who does business here would be impacted by this law,” Humphrey said.