Discover will allow its network to track sales at gun sellers starting in April.
The card network is apparently the first to publicly give a date for the initiative, designed to help law enforcement investigate gun crimes, Reuters reported Sunday (Feb. 19).
“We remain focused on continuing to protect and support lawful purchases on our network while protecting the privacy of cardholders,” the card company said in its statement to Reuters.
Later, a spokesperson for Discover told Reuters that other payment networks had also chosen April to roll out their programs, but declined to name those companies.
“We were following the industry for consistent implementation,” the spokesperson said.
PYMNTS has reached out to Discover for comment but has not yet received a reply.
That was in response to a request California Attorney General Rob Bonta and New York Attorney General Letitia James, who had hoped to flag suspicious activity, such as large purchases of guns or ammunition, for law enforcement.
“If tracking MCCs could stop just one mass shooting or derail one gun trafficker aiming to flood the streets with guns, the change would be justified,” the two prosecutors wrote in a letter to the card companies.
MCCs exist for all sorts of consumer product sellers. However, gun shops were categorized by the far broader categories of specialty retailers or durable-goods sellers.
The new code will be for retailers whose primary business is firearms sales, and big-box stores selling guns will not be included in the code.
Card companies have said the MCCs are not designed to “track” gun sales, but to classify the type of business a retailer does.
“However, MCCs do not give Visa or any other payment network visibility into product-level data, also known as ‘SKU-level’ data,” that company wrote in a blog post last year. “When we process a transaction, we have no visibility into what items a consumer is purchasing — this is true irrespective of which MCC applies to a merchant.”
The plan has been criticized by Republican state attorneys general, who argue that the MCCs could be a violation of consumer protection and antitrust laws.
Writing to the CEOs of the three card companies, the attorneys general argued the monitoring and tracking of firearms sales creates a “list of gun buyers” and places the information of law-abiding consumers at risk.
Montana Attorney General Austin Knudsen said in a statement that it is “extremely disappointing to see credit card companies cave to pressure from international bodies and adopt this measure that will do nothing to improve public safety.”