ON THE FACE OF IT we only have ourselves to blame. It’s not as if we hadn’t been warned – this was no last-minute surprise. All credit to BP for being the only oiler (as far as I am aware – aggrieved parties please send your emails to Merril!) to have approval ready for the off. The company rolled out its Dione terminals last Christmas, and although initially they caused some grief, at least BP retailers will only have the problem of plonker customers to deal with. So the fact that hardly any of us are ready for chip and pin on January 1 must obviously be our fault, mustn’t it? That’s certainly the line the banks will probably take, but it is a little disingenuous to say the least.

NOW I’M NOT EXACTLY AN EXPERT on who is meant to be responsible for approving what, but on the face of it one could be forgiven for wondering if we have been the target of some Machiavellian handiwork. To a simple soul like me, it seems ludicrous that a BP Dione terminal has approval whereas the very same terminal in the hands of a different oil company does not.

"ITS BECAUSE OF THE DIFFERENT FUEL CARDS" was the explanation I was offered. Which would be fine if it was the fuel card side of the industry that was the driving force behind chip and pin. But as most – if not all – of the fuel card companies aren’t even issuing chip cards I really can’t see the reason for the hassle. Unless, of course, one of the fuel card companies was hoping to persuade you to adopt their already approved system – but I’m sure that wouldn’t be case. More to the point, is why Visa or Mastercard could give a damn about fuel cards anyway.

IT ALSO SEEMS STRANGE that it is the card acquirers who seem to have to give the approval. There doesn’t seem much incentive for them to gear up with extra staff to deal with the increased workload when they don’t have to suffer the cost of either cloned cards or chargebacks. Come to that there’s not exactly an obvious need for urgency from the issuers if they know that from January 1 they can offload their fraud problems onto us.

I KNOW THAT SOME OF THE MAJORS have already exercised their muscle with their acquirers to offset any liability during the period they are waiting for approval, but for those of us not covered by their umbrella it could be a very soggy few months. The only remedy I can suggest is asking any issuer who demands a chargeback whether they have yet replaced all their old cards – as 20% of cards in circulation have yet to get a chip you might just get lucky.

AS AN INDUSTRY, ITS NOT OFTEN that we get the opportunity of a new revenue stream. So the current developments on the ATM front are the most welcome news since the advent of mobile top-up vouchers. Over the past year we’ve witnessed a steady exodus by the Big Four from the non-bank-located ATM market, prompted by the ever-reducing charge they can levy on the ATM user’s bank. In itself this is a classic case of what happens if a regulator drives a price down too far. Instead of the result of reducing inter-bank charges making the service better for customers, the opposite has happened. Either the ATM has disappeared or the customer now has to pay for what previously was free!

THE LAST TIME THE SUBJECT OF CHARGES for using ATMs came up there was such a tidal wave of public disapproval that the clearing banks did a very quick about-face and backed down. The latest Parliamentary Select Committee enquiry appears to be focusing on not whether charges are the most evil imposition on the Great British Public since the Window Tax (or even the Poll Tax?!) but more on what warning the user should receive before being charged for accessing their dosh.

ASSUMING THIS IS THE ONLY OUTCOME it leaves us free to take advantage of some of the very handsome deals that are available – an ATM currently handling 7,000 transactions a month can earn you £20,000 a year. Hopefully more than enough to pay for those chargebacks!