A controversial decision by major credit card companies to begin using a new merchant category code (MCC) when customers use plastic for purchases at merchants who offer firearms, ammunition or related gear is now on pause. Last week’s announcement comes less than a month after Reuters news service confirmed it was full-steam ahead for Discover card, which planned on its implementing it in early April. Visa, MasterCard and American Express, according to the report, expected integration sometime later.
“Today, there are bills advancing in several states related to the use of this new code,” Seth Eisen, senior vice president of communications for Mastercard told Fox Business news. “If passed, the result will be an inconsistency in how this ISO standard could be applied by merchants, issuers, acquirers and networks. It’s for that reason that we have decided to pause work on the implementation of the firearms-specific MCC.”
The International Organization for Standardization (ISO)—a federation based out of Geneva, Switzerland, with a membership spanning the globe to develop and publish standards—officially established the MCC on Sept. 9, 2022. The decision to launch the category came at the request of Priscilla Sims Brown, president and CEO of New York City-based Amalgamated Bank. “The new code will allow us to fully comply with our duty to report suspicious activity and illegal gun sales to authorities without blocking or impeding legal gun sales,” she said.
With no publicly released definition of “suspicious activity” or how the information is transferred to law enforcement and/or recorded the ISO announcement and implementation quickly grew criticism. NRA-ILA explained on Sept. 13 that, “…the hope of gun control groups for this new MCC is that it would create a registry of gun owners that they have long sought and provide them with another tool to attack lawful industry when firearms are used in crime.” It took only a week for a dozen state Attorneys General to issue a letter to credit card companies stating, “Be advised that we will marshal the full scope of our lawful authority to protect our citizens and consumers from unlawful attempts to undermine their constitutional rights,” according to CNN. “Please keep that in mind as you consider whether to proceed with adopting and implementing this Merchant Category Code.”