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Walmart Slaps Visa With Lawsuit Over Chip Cards

Customers shop at a Walmart.Customers shop at a Walmart.
Customers shop at a Walmart.Photograph by Gunnar Rathbun — Invision for Walmart

Walmart (WMT) is suing Visa, (V) saying the payments network is preventing it from requiring shoppers to punch in personal identification numbers (PIN) as an extra security measure when they pay with a chip-enabled debit card.

The world’s largest retailer said in a suit filed with New York State Supreme Court on Tuesday that Visa was instead forcing Walmart to also let customers to use a signature when using such cards, a practice Walmart called “fraud-prone.”

“This suit is about protecting our customers’ bank accounts when they use their debit cards at Walmart,” a Walmart spokesman said in an e-mailed statement. “We believe Visa’s position creates unacceptable risk to customers and its actions and rules are inconsistent with federal law.”

Visa declined to comment.

The lawsuit is the latest in series of fights between Visa and Walmart: two years ago, Walmart sued Visa over swipe fees.

Chip-enabled credit cards and debit cards are becoming the standard in the United States after a number of high-profile data breaches at major retailers in recent years. Many in the retail industry have claimed that the additional step of entering a PIN for both debit and credit cards, standard virtually everywhere else in the world, would make shopping more secure for customers. Chip cards create a unique code for each transaction, making it more difficult to produce counterfeit cards.

But many in the banking industry have argued that shoppers won’t want to remember yet another password. Walmart addressed that directly in its suit, saying customers use PIN at automated teller machines.

The dispute illustrates the long-standing frictions between retailers and financial institutions over balance security and good customer service when shoppers checkout.