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Walmart yesterday sued Visa Inc, charging that the credit/debit card company was illegally preventing it from requiring customers to use PIN-based cards rather than signature-based cards.

According to the New York Times story, Walmart says that Visa's goal in requiring signatures is to get the higher fees that come when transactions are signed for. Fees are lower when customers use PINs.

The Times writes that "The lawsuit is the latest development in the long-running debate over how to balance security and convenience in the checkout line with the new generation of chip-enabled cards. While consumers typically use a PIN when using their debit card at an ATM, some shoppers opt to sign for purchases made with a debit card when they are in a store.

"Wal-Mart says it prefers PINs because they are more secure than signatures. Debit cards are the most frequently used form of payment at Wal-Mart, accounting for more than 70% of the dollar value of card payments, the retailer said in the lawsuit."

Visa has not commented on the suit.
KC's View:
Walmart is making a clear pro-consumer statement here, and Visa - not surprisingly - seems to be only on the side of its own financial interests.

My suggestion to Walmart - and every retailer - is that they all ought to post big signs in their stores informing customers why PIN usage saves them money and is more secure, and that the credit/debit card companies only want customers to sign for purchases because it makes them more money.

This strikes me as a PR campaign that retailers cannot lose.