M&S warning to smaller chains about Chip & PIN

Marks & Spencer, which is on course for the launch of the Chip & PIN trial in Northampton by mid-May, has warned medium-sized retailers that they risk being left out in the cold if they do not act soon.

M&S Chip & PIN project manager Peter Forbes said large retailers were generally well prepared and smaller retailers had systems provided for them by banks.

However, he said retailers with around 20 to 30 stores risked being left behind. 'It's not really a dilemma. You have got to do it or face the consequences,' he said.

The retailer has been preparing for the launch for more than 18 months under Forbes' supervision. He said the official trial start date has not yet been nailed down and would be agreed by retailers involved over the coming weeks. The retailer line-up is due to be announced this month.

The launch will coincide with an outdoor, print and radio advertising campaign in Northampton designed to increase awareness and educate the public.

However, Forbes said initial communication with customers about the reasons for moving to Chip & PIN had been well received. Fraudulent transactions cost banks£450 million a year and after January 1, 2005 retailers will be liable for the costs under new rules.

Forbes said: 'The trial is not about the technology, it's about finding out what works best for the customer.' M&S is also working on strategies to minimise cheque fraud. He said fraudsters would exploit any doors left open.

Forbes' concerns echo those raised by Tesco head of treasury Nick Mourant earlier this year.