Waitrose races to be ready as chip-and-pin deadline looms

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The Independent Online

Upmarket supermarket chain Waitrose is facing a race to be chip-and-pin ready, with just a quarter of its stores currently offering the facility - despite a crucial deadline falling in only a fortnight.

From 14 February, retailers will be held liable for any fraudulent transactions if shoppers sign for credit and debit card purchases rather than enter their four-digit pins.

Most of the high street has been chip-and-pin ready for some time, and will no longer accept signatures after St Valentine's Day. But Waitrose's newly installed system crashed at the end of last year and is still not fully operational across its 173-strong estate. A spokeswoman for Waitrose insisted that the chain would be able to meet the 14 February cut off point.

"We are working successfully with our suppliers to resolve problems with our interim chip-and-pin system," she said.

"A quarter of our branches are currently operating with chip and pin. We expect to have more than half our branches up and running by the end of this week. We will be increasing this number and are confident all branches will be operational by 14 February."

Waitrose, which is part of the John Lewis Partnership, plans to introduce a new point-of-sale system at the end of this year, and so is using the current chip-and-pin facility on an interim basis.

After the changes to the law on St Valentine's Day, retailers can refuse to serve shoppers who do not know their pin number. The introduction of chip-and-pin technology has helped to dramatically reduce fraud since its introduction in October 2003, and some 127 million new cards have been issued.

Only cards that have not yet been upgraded to chip and pin, along with specially designed cards for disabled users, will still have the fraud cover if a signature is used after 14 February.