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Tuesday, January 22, 2019

NEAA all grown up

Fifteen years ago, the Northeast Acquirers Association conference was a relatively small, regional affair. A couple hundred ISOs and merchant level salespeople (MLSs) would come together at a Vermont ski resort in the dead of winter for networking, educational sessions and fun on the slopes. Eventually, the event outgrew that venue, and ISOs, MLSs and their channel partners traded in snow gear for more intensive learning and networking events.

This year the annual NEAA event drew more than 800 industry professionals, card brand representatives and vendors to an airport hotel in Newark, N.J., for a day and a half of timely educational sessions, a packed exhibit space and networking.

"You are the heart and soul of this industry," Amy Zirkle, director of industry affairs at the Electronic Transactions Association, said in opening remarks to the confab. "You have a vital role to play going forward."

One of the highlights of the event was the Catapult Innovation Competition, wherein creators of new, disruptive acquiring products vied for bragging rights and free booth space at Transact 19, ETA's annual conference coming up in May. The winner was Southborough, Mass.-based ISO Petroleum Processing Solutions. It offers an API for the Clover POS system that supports EMV-compliant card acceptance at fuel pumps.

Perhaps the hottest topic highlighted in the exhibit hall and conference sessions was the cost of merchant acceptance. Several exhibitors showcased products and services that support cash discounting, surcharging or both. Attendees packed the room for a session on surcharging.

David Leppek, an industry consultant and former ISO executive, told those attending the session that Visa is looking closely at cash discounting programs to ensure compliance with its rules. Visa a recently issued to ISOs and acquirers warning that many cash discounting programs operate like surcharge programs without following its surcharging rules. "Some ISOs are being contacted by sponsor banks" over Visa compliance issues, Leppek said.

This is no momentary trend. "Compliance will dominate this space for the foreseeable future," said Jonathan Razi, founder and CEO of CardX, which offers automated surcharging solutions.

Chargebacks, contactless, tokenization

Other hot-button issues addressed during conference sessions included chargebacks, contactless payments and tokenization.

Echoing the sentiments of several other presenters, Tom Sheridan, senior account executive at Visa, said, "2019 will be the year of contactless."

Peter Shenk, director of partnerships at Womply, pointed to studies suggesting merchant sales increase when customers have contactless payment options. "Education will be key," he stated.

Tokenization is emerging as the go-to tool for eliminating cyberattacks and fraud in the ecommerce channel. It is used to replace sensitive card data with non-sensitive equivalents (or tokens) and eliminates the need for merchants to store this sensitive information. Tokenization is a promising technology, but it can't be approached as a one-off solution, said Vidor Datt, vice president, emerging payment solution sales at Mastercard. "All stakeholders need to embrace this," he said.

Suresh Dakshina, president of Chargeback Gurus Inc., described new chargeback resolution rules and the impact those are having on ecommerce and other card-not-present (CNP) merchants. Those new rules, known as VCR for Visa Claims Resolution, aim to streamline and expedite the dispute resolution process and prevent bogus chargeback claims.

While the rules went into effect in April 2018, Dakshina said the vast majority of CNP merchants remain unaware of the implications. "We need to do a better job of keeping merchants aware of what's going on in the industry," he said.

The next NEAA conference will be held in Boston, Feb. 4 to 6, 2020. end of article

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