PCI Compliance for UK Businesses

Credit Card PCI compliance
Accepting customer payments is crucial to your operations as a business owner. Whether you're an online retailer, a brick-and-mortar store, or a service provider, you need to ensure that your customer's payment information is protected from fraud and data breaches.

One of the most important ways to do this is by complying with the Payment Card Industry Data Security Standards (PCI DSS).

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We’ll take you through the basics of PCI DSS compliance and explain the steps you need to take to ensure that your business is compliant.

What is PCI DSS Compliance?

PCI DSS is a set of security standards developed by major credit card companies (Visa, Mastercard, American Express, etc.) to protect against credit card fraud and data breaches. The standards are designed to ensure businesses accepting credit card payments have appropriate security measures to protect sensitive customer information.

If your business accepts card payments, you need to be PCI compliant.

Why is PCI DSS Compliance Important?

PCI DSS compliance is essential for several reasons. First and foremost, it helps protect your customers’ sensitive payment information from fraud and data breaches. This is important for your customers’ peace of mind and your business’s reputation and bottom line. Additionally, non-compliance with PCI DSS can result in hefty fines and penalties and the loss of the ability to accept credit card payments.

Additionally, the ICO has alerted e-commerce businesses that failure to comply with PCI DSS or offer similar protection when handling payment card information may violate the Data Protection Act 1998 and result in enforcement action from the ICO.

Non-compliance has severe consequences, including fines from £3,000 to £60,000, lawsuits, harm to your business’s reputation and loss of clients, and possibly losing the ability to accept card payments. So neglecting PCI DSS is not worth risking your business and your client’s privacy.

How to Achieve PCI DSS Compliance

Achieving PCI DSS compliance requires a multi-faceted approach. The exact steps you’ll need to take will depend on the size and complexity of your business, but generally speaking, you’ll need to:

  • Conduct a self-assessment to identify vulnerabilities and assess your current security measures.
  • Implement security controls to address any vulnerabilities identified in the self-assessment.
  • Regularly monitor and test your security controls to ensure they function as intended.
  • Maintain records of your compliance efforts and make them available to your acquirer (the financial institution that processes your credit card transactions) upon request.

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The 12 PCI compliance requirements

  • Install and maintain a firewall configuration to protect cardholder data
  • Do not use vendor-supplied defaults for system passwords and other security parameters
  • Protect stored cardholder data
  • Encrypt transmission of cardholder data across open, public networks
  • Use and regularly update anti-virus software or programs
  • Develop and maintain secure systems and applications
  • Restrict access to cardholder data by business need to know
  • Assign a unique ID to each person with computer access
  • Restrict physical access to cardholder data
  • Track and monitor all access to network resources and cardholder data
  • Regularly test security systems and processes.
  • Maintain a policy that addresses information security for all personnel.

Tips for becoming PCI compliant

  • Thoroughly understand the PCI Data Security Standard requirements and how they apply to your business.
  • Conduct a self-assessment to identify gaps in your current security measures and prioritize remediation efforts.
  • Implement strong passwords and restrict access to sensitive data to only authorized personnel.
  • Encrypt all sensitive data both in storage and during transmission.
  • Regularly update software and security systems to address newly discovered threats.
  • Conduct regular security audits, including penetration testing and vulnerability scans.
  • Educate employees on the importance of information security and the role they play in maintaining compliance.
  • Maintain comprehensive records of all security measures and regularly review them to ensure they remain effective.
  • Seek the assistance of a Qualified Security Assessor (QSA) if necessary.
  • Regularly monitor industry developments and adjust your security measures as needed to stay ahead of emerging threats.

Common PCI DSS Compliance Challenges

There are some common challenges that businesses face when trying to achieve PCI DSS compliance. Some of the most common include:

  • Lack of knowledge and understanding of the PCI DSS standards
  • Difficulty in identifying and addressing vulnerabilities
  • Difficulty in maintaining compliance over time
  • Limited resources (e.g. budget, staff)

Avoid the headaches and safeguard your business.

PCI compliance is highly intricate and complex, making it advisable for businesses to entrust the complexities to their merchant account provider for a seamless and compliant experience.

It is suggested to incur the cost associated with PCI compliance as it is only a small monthly fee and helps prevent any non-compliance fees related to PCI.

This table illustrates a possible cost for maintaining PCI compliance through a merchant account provider.

Merchant Account Provider Monthly Fee
Barclays Merchant Services£4.80

These fees are intended as guidelines only and are updated 1st February 2023.

If you accept card payments, consult your merchant account provider to ensure PCI compliance and understand the associated fees, if any.