Retailers have been warned that time is of the essence if they are to implement chip and pin technologies successfully.
The Chip and Pin Programme Management Association said that trials in Northampton had shown that allocating sufficient time for the necessary planning, testing and training is possibly the most critical factor in ensuring a successful implementation.
Testing was also cited as a major time consumer, with retailers required to ensure that their chosen hardware and software complies with bank IT systems.
Both software and hardware and every configuration between equipment and cards has to be verified and approved by the banks, the Association said.
"We have had headaches with the technology, but certification was the biggest and took longer than we would have hoped," said Jeremy Wyman, business systems manager at Safeway.
"All the software bugs had to be ironed out and all security standards spot-on. Retailers have never had to do this before so our IT department had never talked to banks. They do now."
Each retailer will have different banking arrangements and in-store policies such as floor limits, which govern how much can be spent in a single transaction.
This means that, although standards have been set, software will need to be customised for many shops, again requiring time.
Some retailers have expressed concerns about the cost of upgrading to chip and pin, which the Association has put at around £1.1bn for the UK, insisting that they were not given enough financial incentives.
But Wyman dismissed this. He expected Safeway, which worked with IBM to customise the software and Ingenico to develop the hardware, to recoup its investment by April 2004.
He would not put a total price on the project for the 9,000 tills in Safeway's 468 stores nationwide.
But Wyman explained that upgrading protects the retailer from bearing the financial brunt of card fraud against which chip and pin is designed to protect.
This will not be the case for retailers that fail to install chip and pin by 2005, when banks will deem them most likely to be "the weakest link".
Wyman added that Safeway's chip and pin implementation had also helped cut storage and transaction costs, and improve customer confidence.
"We have always seen the benefits. Customers think it is fantastic and, as well as making fraud management easier, it has other benefits including saving on 13,000 miles of till roll each year," he said.
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