Friday, November 21, 2008

Interchangeable...Antitrust and Visa

Visa Says U.S. Antitrust Agency Starts "Fourth Probe"

I trust that this won't be the last time either! Visa made their bed and now they've got to sleep in it. You reap what you sow...and now it seems that the words Visa and Antitrust go hand in hand...
Visa Inc., the world's largest credit-card company, said the U.S. Justice Department has opened its fourth investigation into a credit-card fee paid by retailers.

The Justice Department's document requests ``focus on certain Visa U.S.A. policies relating to merchant acceptance practices, including Visa U.S.A.'s policies regarding merchant surcharging and merchants' ability to steer customers to other forms of payment,'' Visa said in a filing today with the Securities and Exchange Commission. Visa said it's cooperating with the investigation.

Just last month, I posted that Visa and rival MasterCard Inc. settled with Discover Financial Services over a lawsuit accusing them of blocking banks from issuing their cards. A U.S. district judge ordered Visa and MasterCard in 2001 to stop forcing banks to choose between their cards and ones from Discover and American Express Co. Her order followed a Justice Department suit against the credit-card groups for antitrust violations. Visa sued in 2004, after the U.S. Supreme Court refused to hear the case.

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Citi Going Down Too?

Wow...what a year.  Not to put PBT into the same category, but when they went down I was shocked, based on the amount of money they had raised.  Then Lehmann, Bear Stearns, etc.  Now it looks like Citi, with whom Pay By Touch partnered with in Singapore isn't going to make it.  They pre-date Lehmann, which came about during the Civil War era.  Unbelievable.  This from today's Wall Street Journal...
With roots stretching back to 1812 and more than 200 million customer accounts in 106 countries, Citigroup is an icon of global capitalism.

It is getting battered by the same financial storm that has already remade the face of Wall Street, forcing the sale of Bear Stearns Cos. and Merrill Lynch & Co. earlier this year, and triggering the bankruptcy filing of Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc.

Mr. Pandit and other Citigroup executives have told colleagues they are frustrated and befuddled by this week's 50% stock decline. Investors have dumped bank stocks en masse on fears that economic woes will batter financial companies worse than previously expected.

Weighing down the shares has been the Treasury Department's decision last week not to buy troubled assets from banks. Citigroup's balance sheet includes battered securities and loans that many investors hoped could be offloaded to the government. 
Click to read the full report at The Wall Street Journal
Here's more on the story from various news wires:
Executives at Citigroup Inc., faced with a plunging stock price, began weighing the possibility of auctioning off pieces of the financial giant or even selling the company outright, according to people familiar with the matter.

The internal discussions are at a preliminary stage and don't signal that Citigroup's board and management are backing down from their insistence that the New York company has ample capital, funding and strategic direction, these people said. But with the stock down another 26% Thursday, its worst one-day percentage decline ever, Citigroup officials have decided they need to reckon with a range of scenarios
that were unthinkable only weeks ago.

Citigroup's board of directors is scheduled to have a formal meeting Friday to discuss the options, according to people familiar with the situation. Directors also have been talking by phone about what could be done to reverse the stock's slide.

Top executives were locked in meetings Thursday to hash out a stabilization strategy. Chief Executive Vikram Pandit scheduled a conference call for 8 a.m. Friday to discuss the situation with senior managers.

A Citigroup spokeswoman said in a statement Thursday evening: "Citi has a very strong capital and liquidity position" and is "focused on executing our strategy," which includes cutting expenses and selling assets. "We believe the benefits will be seen over time."
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Free Shipping Motivates Online Shoppers Most

While half of U.S. online consumers say they shop online to find the best value during the holiday shopping season, more than three-quarters of online consumers say free shipping makes them more likely to buy from any particular online merchant, Forrester Research Inc. says in the report “Outlook for U.S. Online Holiday Sales, 2008.”

The report, authored by Forrester Research principal retail analyst Sucharita Mulpuru with analysts Carrie Johnson and Peter Hult, also notes that shipping can be a detriment to online shopping. 58% of consumers say shipping prices often deter them from buying online, and 55% complain it’s a hassle to return items ordered online.

The study also provides a look into consumers’ expectations of shipping policies, and how well online retailers delivered during the holiday shopping season last year. It notes that 24% of survey respondents said they experienced late holiday deliveries last year, and that the largest group of respondents, or 67%, expect standard shipping to deliver within 3-5 days. 27% expect standard shipping to deliver within 6-7 days; 3% within two days. 1% of consumers expect standard shipping to deliver the day after placing an order, but another 1% expect delivery within 10 days.

So, with that said, it's not surprise that...

More top 100 online retailers offer free shipping

Free shipping offers were more common this week than last week among the top 100 online retailers, as nine more introduced the offers while four discontinued them, a survey by Internet Retailer finds. In all, 67 offered free shipping on the web sites this week, up from 62 last week.

The survey compiled the number of free shipping offers presented on the web sites of the top 100 online retailers as listed in the Internet Retailer Top 500 Guide, 2008 Edition. It did not include any free-shipping offers that may have appeared only outside of the web sites, such as in e-mail marketing campaigns.

Retailers joining the free-shipping bandwagon this week include J.C. Penney,,, PC Connection, Cabela’s, Foot Locker, J.Crew and American Girl.

Those no longer showing free-shipping offers that appeared on their sites last week were Spiegel Brands, American Eagle Outfitters and and Orchard Brands Corp.’s

Some free-shipping promotions this week were noticeably more elaborate than the crop offered last week., for instance, noted that it was offering free-shipping on a more extensive range of products. Best Buy extended its free-shipping offer to cover orders of $75 and more for electronic games and accessories, then also offered free shipping on all orders of $99 or more Nov. 20-22. OfficeMax noted this week that it was offering free shipping on orders of $50 or more to addresses within 20 miles of an OfficeMax store. went from offering no free shipping last week to offering it on orders of $75 or more for sports and games products and on orders of $25 or more on books, music and video products.

Many retailers clarified that their free-shipping offers were only good for orders shipped to addresses within the 48 contiguous states, and several retailers put a time limit on their offers. J.C. Penney launched a free-shipping offer this week on all orders of $49 or more through Nov. 25. Saks Fifth Avenue extended its free-shipping offer on orders of $200 more through Nov. 23. Disney extended its offer on orders of $89 or more through Nov. 21. J. Crew introduced a free-shipping offer this week on orders of $150 or more through Nov. 20.

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PIN-Flight Payments Processed by Handheld

Windows handheld collects in-flight payments
GuestLogix announced a Windows CE handheld computer that lets airline flight attendants accept payments via credit or debit cards. The "OnBoard PowerSeller 2" includes a PIN entry keypad, an MSR (magnetic strip reader), a Smart Card reader, an imager/barcode scanner, and a thermal printer, says GuestLogix.

No mention was given as to whether it is PCI certified.

GuestLogix calls the new PowerSeller 2 its "next generation" mobile payment handheld, apparently because the company's previous such product did not have a keypad allowing customers to enter their own PINs. The PED (pin entry device) subsystem is said to comply with ECBS (European Committee for Banking Standards) and a variety of other certifications. For high security, the PED hardware does its work independently, supplying output to applications running on the device but not requiring any assistance from them, the company says.

Thanks to the new PED, airline customers can now use both debit cards and credit cards to pay for duty-free goods, in-flight entertainment, and other items. The PowerSeller 2 reads cards via an onboard Smart Card reader or MSR, and can print receipts via its integral 2.3-inch thermal printer, GuestLogix says.

GuestLogix did not release pricing or availability information for the PowerSeller 2. More information may be available from the company's website, here.

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Skimming Devices Thwarted by Using PIN Debit

I've posted quite a few times on gas station skimming.  (See related articles at the end of this post)

In fact, just yesterday, (previous post) I posted about an Illinois Credit Union that revoked "pay at the pump" privileges for it's card holders entirely

They even took the exorbitantly tell-tale steps of temporarily "barring" signature debit, use entirely...requiring their card holders to exclusively use PIN debit.  (for what I mean about "tell-tale" see:
Bank Temporarily Bans Signature Debit, Mandates PIN to Reduce Threat!)

For those unfamiliar with the gas pump skimming technique, here's an overview:  A criminal can break into the gas pump, attach a tiny device to the computer that reads credit card information, fix the pump and walk away without any visible sign of the skimmer in inside

 “There’s an electronic skimming device inside the computer part (of the pump) and it passively collects data.”
The thief would then return to the pump at a later date, break back into it, remove the device, and then usually sell all the personal information to a third party, he added. Criminals will use the information online or to make counterfeit credit cards.
Trailing the stolen information is difficult, especially since victims usually don’t immediately realize their information has been stolen.
“If they go and use the card in elsewhere, say NY, Chicago, L.A. or somewhere or outside the county, it's almost impossible to catch them.  It is also nearly impossible for local agencies to track all the information.
The best way to protect against gas station skimmers, is by paying with cash, or go inside the gas station to use your card and use a debit card with a PIN number.
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