What is Strong Customer Authentication?

Sep 10, 2019


By Esmée Hardwick-Slack

Strong Customer Authentication (SCA) comes from an EU directive designed to reduce payment fraud across the continent. Banks and retailers have been expected to introduce the measures on 14th September 2019, however many of these businesses may not be ready.

The directive will demand that those offering payment services within the European Economic Area to deploy additional security measures on payments exceeding €30 (£27.29).  After the directive comes into place, all customer initiated transfers, such as card payments and bank transfers, will be subject to SCA safeguard. Payments initiated by merchants, such as direct debits, will continue to operate as usual.

The aim is to reduce the number of fraudulent payments by forcing the user to confirm their identity by using another verification method, for example being asked to enter your pin number when making a contactless payment in store or through biometric data, such as thumbprints on a smartphone or voice recognition. Customers who access their online bank account, send online payments, or engage in a remote channel that could carry a risk of fraud, will be subject to SCA.

However, the Financial Conduct Authority, has effectively delayed SCA, saying it won’t be enforced until March 2021. It is expected that providers will introduce these new measures in a staggered approach over the next 18 months. Retailer John Lewis has already alerted its customers of the potential changes they may see when making payments in its stores or online. Stating that “We are trying to give customers the heads-up, so there won’t be any barriers to transacting. We want to be on the front foot.”  Apple, Stripe and a number of banks and credit card providers have also made their customers aware of the changes.

Many argued that the 14th September start dates was unrealistic. According to the British Retail Consortium, the fact that many retailers would be unprepared would have created a significant disruption to online payments. As a result, it estimated the number of e-commerce transactions carried out in the UK would have dived by 25-30%.


What are your thoughts on SCA? Will its implication disrupts your business or do you welcome the extra payment security? We’d love to hear from you in the comment or on our Twitter, Facebook and Linkedin pages.


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