A new policy UA Dining Services is attempting to implement violates credit card company requirements, infringes upon student privacy rights, and encourages students to decrease the security of their purchases as well as their protections in the case of fraudulent charges — all in an attempt to generate more captive business for on-campus merchants.
As the Daily Wildcat reported, campus restaurants are now asking for photo ID for credit and debit card purchases. This move not only violates student privacy rights, but is both prohibited by credit card companies and illegal in some states (though not, alas, Arizona). Requiring ID isn’t an altruistic policy shift to prevent credit card theft, as these administrators claim. It’s a blatant ploy to get student to pour money into a CatCard-bound dining plan, creating a captive market of students who have no choice but to buy their food on campus.
The article states:
All restaurants on campus are now checking photo identification with credit or debit card purchases exceeding $10 as part of a new anti-theft measure.
The new policy is to maintain Payment Card Industry compliancy, which is designed to ensure all companies that process, store or transmit credit or debit card information maintain a secure environment, according to Jianne Johnson, a manager at Retail Dining Service.
Even beyond the violation of a student’s right to not carry identification at all times, this explanation for the policy change is curious. The website of the Payment Card Industry Security Standards Council lists no such requirement anywhere in their standards database, so UA Dining Services can’t blame this policy change on that governing body. Further, credit card companies explicitly prohibit vendors from requiring customer IDs for transactions. From Visa’s guidelines for merchants [PDF]:
Although Visa rules do not preclude merchants from asking for cardholder ID except in the specific circumstances discussed in this guide [i.e. for unsigned cards or "See ID" signatures], merchants cannot make an ID a condition of acceptance. Therefore, merchants cannot as part of their regular card acceptance procedures refuse to complete a purchase transaction because a cardholder refuses to provide ID. It is important that merchants understand that the requesting of a cardholder ID does not change the merchant’s liability for chargebacks. However, it can slow down a sale and annoy the customer. In some cases, it may even deter the use of the Visa card and result in the loss of a potential sale. Visa believes merchants should not ask for ID as part of their regular card acceptance procedures. (Emphasis added)
As is obvious here, this new UA Dining Services policy is in blatant violation of the standards of the credit card company, making it highly unlikely that this policy is in compliance with any standard issued by the standards body of the entire industry, as Johnson claims. The Mastercard website features a similar disclaimer prohibiting merchants from requiring customer ID (sic):
There are certain situations when you use your MasterCard card where a merchant may require some personal information: for example for the shipping purposes, . Additionally, if the MasterCard card is unsigned, a merchant should request personal identification (but not record it) and ask the cardholder to sign the card before completing the transaction If you believe that a merchant has violated the above standard or their actions requesting identification are questionable, you may report it by clicking the following URL and completing a brief online form
A link directs concerned cardholders to a Merchant Complaint form, which includes the following check-box option:
The merchant/retailer required identification.
This new policy is not, in fact, in compliance with any Payment Card Industry standards. Though informal standards of the lower-case payment card industry do allow merchants to choose to solicit identification, those merchants may not refuse service based on the customer’s refusal to provide that identification. Not to conflate deportation with refusal to accept a Visa to pay for one’s daily Cellar binge, but the “papers, please” rhetoric employed here is echoes disconcertingly the requirements of state legislation that everyone carry proof of identity at all time — legislation that was rightfully heartily criticized and openly resisted by many UA students (including this site). A person should have the right to both leave his house and purchase goods without having government-issued ID branded on his forehead.
Dining Service’s defense is, as a shrewd comment by “Chris” on the Wildcat article noted, even more ludicrous in their explanation that this is a protection measure to prevent identity fraud. In the case of a stolen credit card, the cardholder is not responsible for fraudulent charges. Furthermore, as the Visa site notes, “It is important that merchants understand that the requesting of a cardholder ID does not change the merchant’s liability for chargebacks.” There is absolutely no defensible reason for UA Dining Services to solicit ID for purchases, the credit card companies prohibit them from requiring it, and every claim made for this policy shift is vacuous, wrong, or both.
So why is Dining Services even attempting to make this change? They slyly reveal that in this article as well:
Johnson added that this is the “perfect time” to purchase a meal plan, because the student’s picture is already on the CatCard itself.
“You can use your CatCard throughout all of campus,” she said.
The UA is looking to violate student rights and credit card industry standards in order in increase their captive market. The purpose is harassment of those audacious students who dare purchase from UA restaurants without buying into a UA meal plan — students on the fence will now be inclined to at least get a marginal plan, in the name of convenience. Some may view this as a subtle nudge, but it is one persistent enough that people over time will opt for CatCards over debit/credit cards — and for mealplans over meal choice.
If a student puts his money on a CatCard, he can only spend it on campus — meaning more money for Dining Services. A CatCard works just like a debit card — except students are liable for fraudulent charges made if their CatCard is stolen. According to the Terms and Conditions of the CatCard [PDF] (to which every student is required to agree for identification and library use):
Lost or stolen cards should be reported immediately…The University will not be responsible for any charges made using the card.
If UA Dining Services was serious about their claims that this new policy is to protect students from identity theft, they would require a second form of identification for CatCard purchases, as well. While it may be true that CatCards feature pictures, so do most credit cards — and credit cards feature signatures, while CatCards do not. In addition, CatCard purchases can be made at vending machines, meaning that someone who steals a CatCard could rack up a sizeable Monster and Pop Tart bill without a merchant ever having a chance to look at the photo and intercept the thief — and the student from whom the CatCard was stolen would be inescapably responsible for those charges. CatCard transactions are both less secure and more potentially costly to students if theirs is stolen, and yet the UA administration is encouraging CatCard use over the safer, cheaper outside cards.
While taking out one more piece of plastic from one’s wallet may seem like a minor issue, students who care about privacy rights, identity theft, or the security of their own money will realize that UA Dining Services’ policy is far from innocent, and students should accordingly be far from complacent.