What Can Happen if You Don’t Achieve PCI Compliance?

Complying with PCI Data Security Standards necessitates an investment of time, money and resources by a PCI entity. PCI compliance requires entities to protect cardholder data during transmission, storage and processing; these protection measures range from physical security measures to internal personnel policies to testing procedures. If that investment in compliance seems excessive, keep in mind that non-compliance can come at a much greater cost. Failure to comply with PCI requirements can cause serious financial, legal and reputation damage for a compromised business.

Who Verifies PCI Compliance?

There are multiple links in the chain of PCI compliance. Compliance itself is enforced by the 5 major payment card brands (American Express, Discover Financial Services, JCB International, MasterCard and Visa Inc.). These brands, each with their own compliance programs, require acquirers to submit documentation of compliance. This documentation, in turn, is provided to acquirers by PCI entities that handle cardholder data (CHD). These entities include both service providers and merchants.

What are the Consequences of PCI Non-Compliance?

There are a myriad of negative repercussions associated with failure to achieve PCI compliance. The worst consequence of all, of course, is compromised cardholder data. This compromise, in the form of data loss or theft, can lead to entities facing loss of business, customer distrust, fines and even legal action.

Financial repercussions may come in any number of forms. Depending on the type, number and duration of infractions, entities may face non-compliance fines of thousands of dollars from acquirers and/or payment card brands. Additionally, an entity may be the recipient of lawsuits, insurance claims or government fines.

If an entity fails to achieve PCI compliance and experiences a breach, it may also damage the relationship and reputation with the entity’s partners, customers, payment brands and acquirers. In fact, discovery of a breach may lead to the suspension of partnership and the inability to do business with a payment card brand. Without the ability to handle payment card data, this suspension can be seriously detrimental to an entity’s bottom line.

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