Independent retailers are still struggling with payment processing issues costing time and money and leaving them open to fraud and late payments, according to The Grocer's latest reader panel survey.

The poll of The Grocer Top 50 retailers reveals that almost two thirds have experienced problems processing shoppers' card payments in the past year. Many of those hit are still experiencing them.

The survey suggests that the cases reported by Anglian Convenience Stores, ranked 38 in The Grocer Top 5, are just the tip of the iceberg.

One source says: "Reporting is deficient in the systems we use. As a result, and because there are still many non-chipped cards in the marketplace, we have had a recent fraud that could have been detected."

He adds that banks are still not accepting transactions by broadband and BT is pulling out of ISDN Business Highway, the next quickest payment processing method. Consequently, retailers will have to use a third party to accumulate the data and send it in over another type of data line.

The acquisition of Alliance & Leicester's merchant-acquiring business by Euroconex in 2004 has also created problems, says one retailer, because the two companies had different processing arrangements. A forecourt retailer adds: "There has been a major problem in the fuel retailing industry of cloning (mistakenly duplicating transactions). Both Total and Shell had to close down their networks for a while."

However, the issues are being ironed out, he says.

Significantly, six months since chip and PIN became the standard method of card payment for shoppers, half of all processing issues raised are generated by chip and PIN systems. Those experiencing difficulties report a wide range of different issues. A total of 45% say they are software related, while 36% believe they are created by outdated or malfunctioning equipment. A further 19% cite human error, commonly associated with transmission of wrong account codes or the mishandling of transactions.

One retailer says: "The problem stems from the fact that systems are not yet 100% chip and PIN."

But not everyone is having problems. Says another: "I am pleased to say we have not had any problems, but then we are not yet chip and PIN compliant. Maybe that's why!"