Can the Credit Department Reduce (or Withdraw) Open Account Terms?, by Michael C. Dennis

In business-to-business credit granting, can the credit department withdraw or reduce open account terms at any time for any reason or for no reason? I think most people would say ‘Yes’. In my opinion, the answer is ‘Maybe’. For example:

  • You cannot reduce or withdraw open account terms if the decision to do so is based on factors including Race, Religion, Age, or Sexual Orientation.
  • You cannot reduce or eliminate open account terms if there is a law that prevents you from doing.

You might respond that this is not the case in the United States. Assuming that is true, my question is this: Are there laws limiting your right reduce the credit limit in the other countries in which you do business?

If you have a contract with a customer that limits or prevents you from taking unilateral action in connection with lowering the credit limit, then obviously the actions of the credit department in this regard are constrained.

What are your opinions of this subject? As always, I welcome your feedback.

This topic will be covered at the upcoming CreditScape Fall Summit, September 17-18 at the Tropicana in Las Vegas. For more information about the conference, visit www.creditscapeconference.com. I hope to see you there.

Michael C. Dennis is the author of the Encyclopedia of Credit, a free, fast, internet resource for credit and collection professionals. He is a frequent instructor at CMA-sponsored educational events. His most recent book, “Happy Customers, Faster Cash,” is available at amazon.com. He can be contacted at 949-584-9685.

It’s Almost Time for the EMV Liability Shift, Changing the Way Businesses Accept Card Payments

by Matt Fluegge, Vantiv

You may have heard there’s a change coming to the way many businesses accept card payments. The U.S. is in the process of transitioning away from the magnetic stripe cards we’re all familiar with, and moving toward installing small microchips into the cards – also known as chip-and-sign. If you’ve already upgraded your terminals or Point of Sale System to accept these new cards, which are inserted into a slot and not swiped, then you’re ahead of the game. If not or if you’ve never heard about this switch, then you’re not alone – but time is winding down.

It’s called EMV, short for Europay, MasterCard and Visa, the three companies that created the standard. It’s the system the majority of the world uses at their point-of-sale terminals. Chip-enabled credit and debit cards are more secure, by electronically storing data so it’s harder for criminals to steal the payment information and create fraudulent cards. So why the change? For starters, nearly half of all the credit card fraud worldwide occurs in the U.S., even though America accounts for only a quarter of the global card volume. As for why should you make the upgrade, other than helping to ensure that your loyal customer’s financial information is more secure, there’s a legal initiative as well.

Come October 1, 2015, liability for fraudulent transactions will shift to whichever party – the card issuer or the merchant – hasn’t made the switch to EMV. So if your company isn’t accepting EMV payments, your organization will be responsible for the fallout from any fraudulent transactions processed there. The liability shift applies to face-to-face payments and not Card Not Present payments.

There are a few factors to consider and several things for employees to familiarize themselves with before making the move to EMV, as the new terminals are likely to support a broad range of payment methods. This includes contactless EMV, such as a contactless credit card, and NFC mobile applications like Apple Pay and Android Pay. Knowing the difference and how they operate will help answer questions from customers and speed up transactions.

One way to be prepared is to talk to a payments provider about your questions and to discuss your options. Vantiv is an excellent resource to learn more about the liability shift and payment processing solutions tailored to the needs of NACM Members. Vantiv and United TranzActions have been the NACM Affiliates’ endorsed payment processing providers for over 16 years. Contact me at matt.fluegge@vantiv.com for answers to your EMV questions or for help moving to EMV and chip-enabled payments.

 

Matt Fluegge is the Manager of the NACM Credit Card Acceptance Program at Vantiv. He can be reached at matt.fluegge@vantiv.com or 608-834-2539.

Apple Pay And Its Implications As A Payment Channel For Customers To Pay Vendors’ Invoices In The B2B Space, By Scott Blakeley, Esq.

Scott Blakeley, esq.

By Scott Blakeley, Esq.
Blakeley & Blakeley, LLP

Apple has made a media splash with its announcement of Apple Pay, the latest foray of a tech company entering the mobile card payment space. While the B2B space has been slow to embrace electronic payment channel alternatives, especially those designed for smart phones and tablets, these alternatives are thriving in the B2C space. In another article “Payment Channel Alternative (Traditional and Emerging) For The Customer (And The Credit Team’s Preferences),” Lyle Wallis (VP Research, CRF) and I considered the topic of mobile payments. Apple Pay advances this payment form. But does Apple Pay provide insight for the credit team in the B2B space of what the payment channel may look like in the near future?

The Mobile Wallet: A B2B Payment Channel in the Near Term?

Electronic payments, especially in mobile form, are showing to be a most efficient and cost effective payment channel. Banks have invested in mobile options, which allow consumers to deposit checks, view balances and make transfers between accounts, all from their smart phone or tablet. Javelin Strategy and Research estimates that the average cost for a mobile banking transaction (deposit or transfer) is 50% cheaper than a desktop computer transaction and 90% cheaper than an ATM transaction. It costs J.P. Morgan Chase $0.03 to process a customer’s mobile check deposit, versus $0.65 where the customer physically deposits a paper check.

The mobile wallet has arrived. A mobile wallet can be peer-to-peer, consumer-to-business, or both. To use a mobile wallet, the consumer registers a new account with a provider and then connects that mobile wallet to their existing debit card and bank account. Once money is loaded onto the digital wallet, it can be sent to other peers and/or businesses also on the mobile wallet network. Then, should they desire, the consumer may “cash out” all or a certain percentage of their mobile wallet, and the funds are automatically routed back to the original bank account.

Consumers may choose a variety of mobile wallets: Google, Amazon, PayPal, Square, Venmo, and now Apple. Apple announced that its new iPhone 6 and digital watch give users the ability to pay for products and services just by tapping the device to payment terminals using Apple Pay. The service is a take-off of the Google Wallet, which has been available on Android phones since 2011. The mobile payment system uses a technology known as Near Filed Communication (NFC), which transmits a radio signal between the device (smartphone in this instance) and a receiver, when the two are fractions of an inch apart or touching.

Apple Pay, Data Breach and Card Security: Applications to the B2B Space?

The headlines regarding the Home Depot, Target Stores and Neiman Marcus data breaches have affected hundreds of millions of their customers. Vendors rolling out card payment programs in the B2B space are reminded to consider a cardholder’s privacy rights when they store the cardholder’s card information electronically. Apple recognizes the significance of cardholder privacy and intends to distinguish itself through greater card security. Major payment networks and banks have all been working on a system that allows customers to make a payment without handing over any personal details, using a kind of digital token that can be used only once. Apple Pay is the first program to use the tokenization system on a widespread basis. With each Apple Pay transaction, a user’s credit card number won’t pass through the system, just a scrambled, one-time code that can’t be used in any future transaction.

If a retailer’s systems are hacked, Apple Pay customers’ personal information is not compromised. The service also requires a thumbprint scan for each transaction, meaning that only the phone’s owner can use it to make purchases–a stolen smartphone cannot be used for fraudulent purchases. The devices’ operating software iOS 8 will also encrypt more of the user’s personal data (photos, messages, email, contacts, call history, iTunes content), where previous versions of iOS only encrypted a device’s email. These added security features are important and one of the reasons that Apple Pay has won over credit card companies and retailers. The iPhone 6 and the Apple Watch will use Apple Pay at merchant locations that have purchased the hardware that can read the wireless signal from Apple’s devices. Because merchants are already under pressure to upgrade their POS systems to accept EMV, a new card technology to reduce fraud, there is thus greater opportunity to add-on the NFC technology at the same time. Upgrades to POS systems have been mandated by the credit card companies and must be in place by late 2015 else the merchant will be liable for fraudulent credit card use.

Both Visa and MasterCard are on board with Apple Pay, and Apple is not charging them for allowing their products on Apple phones. Banks have agreed to accept lower fees from Apple than what they usually accept on credit card transactions, with their hope that cardholders will opt to use the technology in place of cash and other payment methods, thereby driving up the total number of transactions. Safer credit card transactions will lower the instance of fraud and thereby reduce card fees for everyone.

Apple Pay and B2B Implications

Can mobile solutions accommodate transactions in the B2B space? Mobile payment technologies have focused on the consumer sector. However, given the push for electronic payment alternatives in the B2B space, developers are pursuing B2B mobile payment technologies. Will businesses move to this payment channel, given the transactional efficiency and low processing costs of mobile payments? According to the AFP, only 11% of US companies surveyed are using mobile payment technologies.

Apple Pay is presently geared toward brick and mortar stores. Online application for card-not-present transactions is a key for the B2B space. The single use nature of Apple Pay technology (digital token) rules out use for multiple transactions (the credit team storing a card on file).

Applications will be developed that provide for Apple Pay technology to be used to pay vendor invoices in the near term.

 

Scott Blakeley, Esq., is a founder of Blakeley & Blakeley LLP, where he advises companies around the United States and Canada regarding creditors’ rights, commercial law, e-commerce and bankruptcy law. He can be reached at his email address.

My Favorite Payment Excuses, by Michael C. Dennis

My Favorite Payment Excuses

The check signer is:
…sick
…dead
…retired
…suspended
…on vacation
…on maternity leave
…not taking calls from creditors
…away from his/ her/ its desk…

or
…Dying or Lying

Payment is:
…in the mail
…lost in the mail
…going to be mailed
…Gone with the wind

In order to issue payment to you, I need:
…an RMA
…an original invoice
…an account statement
…a signed original invoice
…our purchase order itself
…copy of our purchase order
…a credit for xx% of the invoice amount
…A Miracle

What are your favorite excuses?

Michael is a consultant, and the author of “Credit and Collection Forms and Procedures Manual”

What’s in an Effective Final Demand Letter, by Michael C. Dennis, CBF

Final Demand
Final Demand

I recently received a final demand notice from a Supplier.  After I read it, I sent it to our A/P Manager.  Whenever I receive something from another credit department, I try to see what I can learn from them.  In this case, there was essentially nothing to learn.  The final demand letter was too long, and it took more than a paragraph to get to the point.  Add in the fact that it was addressed to the “Credit Manager” rather than to our A/P Manager, or the Controller or CFO, and it was even more of a mess.

Our basic demand letter says this:  “As of today, there is a balance past due of $x.  I hoped this matter could be resolved amicably, but I am almost out of time.  If payment in full is not received within ten days, your account will be placed with a third party for immediate collection or legal action.”

More broadly, I think the keys to generating effective correspondence include:
  • Making certain your message is clear and concise;
  • Not repeating yourself;
  • Avoiding the use of jargon;
  • Sending correspondence directly to an individual – never to a job title;
  • Indicating the action you need the recipient to take, and the deadline for completing it;
  • Not being overly formal;
  • Trying to appeal to the reader’s needs;
  • Keeping your message brief and professional;
  • Using templates for routine correspondence.
Michael Dennis, MBA, CBF, LCM
Michael Dennis, MBA, CBF, LCM

That’s my opinion.  What is yours? How about sharing the highlights of your Final Demand letter in the Comments section?

Michael Dennis’ Covering Credit Commentary. Michael’s website is  www.coveringcredit.com

The opinions presented are those of the author.  The opinions and recommendations do not necessarily reflect the views of CMA, or their Officers and Directors.  Readers are encouraged to evaluate any suggestions or recommendations made, and accept and adopt only those concepts that make sense to them.