I got a lovely letter in the mail last week informing me that I was to appear in court for failure to pay my council tax. This came as a bit of a surprise to me as I had gone on-line the previous month and paid the amount for the year in full - or at least I thought I did. I checked my bank and saw that the funds were never withdrawn so I headed back to the council website to pay again. While going through the process a second time I realized why the payment didn't go through. After filling in all the information, confirming it and hitting submit the screen refreshed with a special offer from Visa to sign up for a free service called "Verified by Visa." It is supposed to protect on-line purchases, blah, blah, blah - I wasn't interested in the service so I didn't fill out the form. I noticed that there was no way to bypass the only option was to accept. Turns out that if you don't fill out the form then your payment is not processed, nowhere on the screen during the process does it say that this is mandatory. It just looks like one of those special offers for valued customers.
Completely frustrated I headed to the council offices yesterday morning to pay the bill and let them know of the problem. I was informed that the company that handles their on-line payments has told them that this will be required of all on-line retailers in the next 6 months. In the research I've done that doesn't quite seem to be accurate. Verified by Visa is actually a service that merchants can sign up for to help prevent on-line fraud, not sure if the merchant has to pay for this or not there is no cost to the consumer. A consumer can opt not to sign up for the service as I did 3 times, after the 4th time they refuse the service they will not be able to purchase items at any on-line retailers that offer the VbV service.
According to documentation found on the www.winwithvisa.com website "While the number of opt-outs given to cardholders may never be fewer than three, Visa recommends at this stage of market development that Issuers either stop sending the cardholder enrolment prompts after a few opt-outs (but let the cardholder continue with the transactions), or place no limit on the number of times the cardholder can exercise this opt-out. " Apparently Barclay's has decided that this "optional service" is actually a requirement. Meaning that buying things on-line has just become much more complex as I will need to enter a pass code each and every time I go to an authorized vendor. As of now this is offered as a free service I can just see them start charging for it in the future.