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By: Andrew Russell, CEO of Sound Payments – Originally published on New York Association of Convenience Stores STOREfronts Online

As many know, gas stations have been asked to adhere to a federal mandate to enable EMV payments at the pump or the stations will be responsible for fraudulent activity. This mandate was extended twice and was put on hold due the pandemic (COVID-19) that brought the world economy to its knees and paused the federal mandate. The federal mandate that required enabling EMV payments at the pump was extended to this past April 2021. Now station owners are responsible for chargebacks.

To put it in perspective, in 2019, before COVID-19 and the first federal mandate extension, many surveys were performed to gage gas station and C-store owners sentiments. In a survey conducted by Conexxus, 70% of gas station owners said their stations were not EMV enabled. 80% of gas stations owners stated that they had intentions to upgrade and enable EMV payments at the pump soon, but only 42% said that they would meet the deadlines set by mandates. More than a year before the mandate to upgrade EMV payments at the pump, 58% of the gas station owners did not expect to upgrade by the April 21, 2021, mandate.

Initially, the only solution to enable EMV offered in the market was a full replacement of pumps at each fueling point.

The main reason station owners are hesitant to upgrade their gas stations to accept EMV payments is cost and downtime. Another major obstacle to upgrades is a shortage of technical personal to conduct the upgrades. Buying new pumps and systems is out of reach for many in the industry. Many of the retrofit solutions available are costly, irreversible, require a full integration and are limited by the number of certifications.

To compare price (because really that’s what the station owners want to know), a new pump system costs more than $18,000 per pump and most of the retrofits out there cost more than $9,000.

For many stations a third-party retrofit is the way to go. I can specifically speak for our solution. Our partners such as Freedom Electronics, NRS Petro, Petrotech, and PCS offer EMV at the pump at 1/3 of the cost compared to other solutions. There are 152,000 C-stores and 121,000 are gas stations with more than 1.5 million fueling points that need to be EMV enabled. Many gas stations are starting to feel the impact of chargebacks at an alarming rate. Some stations are making their customers come inside with a pay-inside note slapped on the front of the pump – many of us just move on to the next station if we must come inside to pay, which usually results in long lines. How much business is lost as a result?

 

Another factor to consider is whether the solution is semi-integrated. Does it include the following?

  • Semi-integrated solution that is PCI certified and encrypted from end to end
  • Accept any form of payments including chip and pin and contactless
  • EMV certification requirements encapsulated
  • Internal reporting and archiving of data not impacted
  • Direct to processor transaction path from payment device – allows payment processing options that are more difficult to achieve with full integrated systems
  • Support other innovation and connect to in-store systems. Examples: electric car charging stations, carwash, vacuum, signage, loyalty programs, online ordering, fleet programs, gift cards, wallet apps and others

 

The C-Store/Gas Station industry has truly evolved from full-service stations where an individual would take payment and pump gas, the attendant would clean the windshield, and even check you oil and tire pressure if necessary. Today, we have C-Stores/Gas Stations that have self-service dispensaries/pumps that are open 24X7, accept payments and you can even watch the news while you pump gas. The industry has always aimed to deliver convenience and savings to their client, this requires new technology and upgrades. The mandate to enable EMV payments at the pump is one of the many new technologies that must be in place to protect the consumer from fraudulent activity and the gas station/C-store owners from chargebacks.

As you consider upgrading your station, think about what works best for your business. If cost and installation time is a concern, a third party retrofit might make the most sense. I recommend that you conduct an in-depth analysis of all the solutions, the capital outlay required, the cost of downtime, maintenance, and support. However, in the end, the most important factor is that your station is EMV compliant. Don’t let it put you out of business.