Understanding PCI Compliance

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Libby James
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Libby James is co-founder, director and an expert in all things merchant services. Libby is the go-to specialist for business with more complex requirements or businesses that are struggling to find a provider that will accept them. Libby is regularly cited in trade, national and international media.

What is PCI Compliance?

At Merchant Advice Service, we frequently receive enquiries regarding PCI DSS Compliance. Clients seek clarity on what PCI stands for and, more importantly, how it impacts their business.


PCI DSS, or Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard, was introduced to the UK in September 2006. Its primary aim is to establish a secure environment for companies handling card transactions and consumer data. The PCI Security Standards Organisation manages and administers these standards and is an independent body formed by major card companies including Visa, MasterCard, American Express, JCB International, and Discover Financial Services. Notably, acquiring banks are responsible for enforcing compliance rather than the organisation itself.

Key PCI Compliance Checklist

PCI compliance is structured around six categories:


Build and maintain a secure network

Protect cardholder data

Maintain a vulnerability management program

Implement strong access control measures

Regularly monitor and test networks

Maintain an information security policy


Before delving deeper, it’s essential to note that some organisations impose hefty PCI fees on customers, even when compliance is a straightforward process. At Merchant Advice Service, our free consultation aims to provide cost-saving recommendations with no obligation.

PCI Compliance Levels and Validation Requirements

UK businesses fall into one of four PCI compliance levels based on Visa transaction volume, each with distinct validation requirements:


Level One: Merchants processing over 6 million Visa transactions per year.


Level Two: Merchants processing between 1 million and 6 million Visa transactions per year.


Level Three: Merchants processing between 20 thousand and 1 million e-commerce Visa transactions per year.


Level Four: Merchants processing fewer than 20 thousand e-commerce Visa transactions or up to 1 million Visa transactions per year.

Significance for Merchants

PCI DSS compliance demonstrates a commitment to safeguarding customer data, particularly crucial for e-commerce websites susceptible to cyber threats. Although compliance requirements may seem complex, they are obligatory for all businesses processing card payments.

Finding a PCI Compliant Assessor

Several reputable companies, including Trustwave, Control Scan, and SRM-Solutions, offer external assessments. A list of contacts and links is provided for further assistance.


PCI DSS Compliance Costs

Costs vary, with an average of £150 for assessments conducted annually. Some major merchant account providers, like Paypal and WorldPay, manage PCI compliance on behalf of merchants, charging monthly or annually. Notably, non-compliance charges could result in fines, starting at £3000.


Useful Links for PCI DSS Compliance





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FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions)

Commonly Asked Questions
What is PCI DSS?
PCI DSS stands for Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard. It is a set of security standards introduced to create a secure environment for companies handling card transactions and consumer data.
How are PCI compliance levels determined?
PCI compliance levels are determined by Visa transaction volume. There are four levels, ranging from Level One for merchants processing over 6 million Visa transactions per year to Level Four for merchants processing fewer than 20 thousand e-commerce Visa transactions.
Can PCI DSS non-compliance lead to fines?
Yes, non-compliance can lead to fines, with the minimum charge being £3000. Additional charges may be incurred based on the efforts required to make the business compliant.
Who enforces PCI compliance?
Acquiring banks are responsible for enforcing PCI compliance, not the organisations themselves.
How often are PCI assessments conducted?
PCI assessments are conducted annually to ensure ongoing compliance.
Is PCI compliance mandatory for all businesses processing card payments?
Yes, PCI compliance is compulsory for all businesses processing card payments.
What are the typical costs associated with PCI compliance?
Costs vary, but the average price for assessments is around £150. Some merchant account providers may charge additional monthly or annually.
Are there alternatives to paying for PCI compliance services?
Some merchant account providers, like PayPal and WorldPay, manage PCI compliance on behalf of merchants. It’s crucial to compare services and fees when choosing a provider.

How Merchant Advice Service Can Help

Understanding and implementing the Security Standard PCI DSS is crucial for all businesses that handle card transactions. Not adhering to these standards can lead to serious data breaches and hefty fines. It’s vital to restrict access to cardholder information and store cardholder data securely. Regular assessments, including Assessment Questionnaires SAQs and annual PCI DSS Requirement reviews, are essential to maintain compliance.


Failing to restrict physical access to sensitive data or adequately track and monitor access on a public network can pose significant risks. Remember, each card brand has specific requirements that must be met. Compliance is not just about avoiding penalties; it’s about protecting your customers and your business.


Merchant Advice Service is dedicated to helping you understand these complexities. We offer guidance to ensure your business complies with PCI DSS, helping you avoid unnecessary expenses and enhance your data security measures. Visit our blog page for more advice and insights into navigating the world of PCI compliance.

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Libby James

Libby James Co-founded Merchant Advice Service alongside David Bird in 2016. Her finance background, coupled with retail and customer service experience, gave Libby the drive to bring transparency and non-biased advice to the world of merchant services. Having come from the heavily regulated mortgage and insurance industry, Libby found it puzzling that other financial sectors lacked regulation and transparency leaving customers confused and unable to make informed decisions when it came to accepting card payments. This was soon to become Libby’s obsession!

With the help of some of the industry’s best, Libby began to research acquiring banks, complex terminology/regulation, and the problems customers experience within merchant services and payment gateway markets. She spent years on sourcing solutions for complex clients, which previously others were unable to assist with. Libby established relationships with brokers and banks which would soon form the cornerstone of Merchant Advice Service. As a result Libby has been featured in high-profile publications across the web.

Libby is proud to be the entrepreneur’s champion, supporting start-up businesses regularly. Her industry insights can often be found on LinkedIn where she provides free of charge advice and money saving pointers. It’s safe to say she has her finger on the pulse of everything card payments related.

Libby speaks of her experience in founding and running Merchant Advice Service…

‘Merchant Advice Service is one of my greatest achievements to date. We help business owners to overcome card processing issues which can become detrimental to their business. We assist SME’s in finding suitable card payments solutions, helping them create their vision. Each and every day is different, exciting and fore filling. As technology advances I can’t wait to see the way in which the merchant services market advances, and I’m pleased that our business will play a part in educating company owners along the way.’

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