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For the Small Business Merchant: Credit Card Compliance & PCI DSS

Christine Baird, CEO, Clarus Tech Partners  |  29 April 2019

The global payment ecosystem is growing, becoming more complex and is inherent with cyber risks.

In today’s digital world, merchants in the ecommerce, retail, hospitality, and restaurant industries need to accept payment transactions via credit and debit cards from their customers.  Because of the digitized processing of payment transactions, the credit card industry has been a target of data breaches which has a huge impact on their bottom line.  So the payment card industry developed cyber security standards for all merchants, from large to small businesses, and rolled out the PCI DSS requirements.


The Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI DSS) is a set of requirements designed to ensure that ALL companies that process, store or transmit credit card information maintain a secure environment. The PCI DSS is administered and managed by the PCI Security Standards Council, an independent organization that was created by the major payment card brands including Visa, MasterCard, American Express, Discover and JCB.


With the evolution of payment cards and ecommerce, payment fraud began to rise dramatically. Hackers began taking advantage of poorly protected systems to steal customer’s payment data, making merchants an easy target. As the credit card companies faced major losses, they responded to this crisis by collaborating to create the PCI Security Standards Council and all merchants, service providers, and payment processing organizations, from large to small, are now required to comply with these standards.


If you are a merchant taking credit card payments through any channel, whether at the point of sale (POS), over the phone, or through ecommerce, then you are required to comply with PCI DSS.  And it is your responsibility, not your merchant service provider (MSP), to be compliant.

The payment card industry (PCI) uses merchant levels, Level 1 – 4, to determine the risks and appropriate level of security required. Each level is based on the number of transactions processed per year by the merchant and also dictates the validation and testing required by the merchant.

PCI DSS Merchant Levels


It is mission critical for organizations to protect the data of their customers, employees, third parties and everyone else related to their ecosystem. The purpose of PCI DSS is to protect credit card and personal data.

The business risks and ultimate costs of noncompliance can greatly exceed the costs involved in complying with PCI DSS.  Merchants can be charged monthly non-compliance fees, face non-compliance fines of between $5000 – $500,000, be required to conduct expensive cyber forensic investigations, risk losing data and their reputation if hacked, and/or face lawsuits.

Cyber security can be expensive, especially for a small mom-and-pop business. However, all merchants are required to comply with the PCI DSS and it is more costly if not compliant or, worse yet, are hacked.  Clarus Tech Partners has developed an affordable and secure Small-Business PCI DSS Security Solution.

The Clarus team works with small to medium-sized businesses on cybersecurity and compliance strategies.  For more information, email us at

Implementing PCI DSS should be part of a sound, basic cybersecurity strategy, which requires making this action part of your ongoing business plan and budget.



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