7 CFR § 274.3 - Retailer management.

§ 274.3 Retailer management.

(a) Retailer participation.

(1) All authorized retailers must be afforded the opportunity to participate in the EBT system. An authorized food retailer shall not be required to participate in an EBT system.

(i) Retailers who do not have immediate access to telephones at the time of authorization shall be accommodated by an alternative system (e.g., manual vouchers with preliminary or delayed telephone verification) for redeeming Program benefits from eligible SNAP customers. These retailers include stationary food stores which opt to make home deliveries to SNAP households, house-to-house trade routes which operate on standing orders from customers, e.g. milk and bread delivery routes, food buying cooperatives authorized to participate as well as other food retailers authorized under § 278.1 of this chapter. Prior to delivery or upon returning to the store, the retailer shall telephone the EBT central computer or hotline number to log the transaction and obtain an authorization number. If authorization cannot be obtained before or at the time of purchase, the retailer assumes the risk for sufficient benefits being available in the household's account. Any alternate method cannot be burdensome on either the household or the retailer, and it must include acceptable privacy and security features. Such systems shall only be available to retailers that cannot be equipped with a POS terminal at the time of authorization.

(ii) Newly authorized retailers shall have access to the EBT system within 2 weeks after the receipt of the FNS authorization notice. However, whenever a retailer chooses to employ a third party processor to drive its terminals or elects to drive its own terminals, access to the system shall be accomplished within a 30 day period or a mutually agreed upon time to enable the third party interface specifications and any State required functional certification to be performed by the State agency and/or its contractor.

(2) Authorized retailers shall not be required to pay costs essential to and directly attributable to EBT system operations as long as the equipment or services are provided by the State agency or its contractor and are utilized solely for SNAP. In addition, if Program equipment is deployed under contract to the State agency, the State agency may, with USDA approval, share appropriate costs with retailers if the equipment is also utilized for commercial purposes. The State agency may choose to charge retailers reasonable fees in the following circumstances:

(i) Cost for the replacement of lost, stolen or damaged equipment;

(ii) The cost of materials and supplies for POS terminals not provided by the State agency;

(iii) Telecommunication costs for all non-EBT use by retailers when lines are provided by the State agency. In addition, State agencies may remove phone lines from retailers in instances where there is significant misuse of the lines.

(3) The State agency shall ensure that the EBT system provides credits to the financial institution holding the accounts for retailers or third party processors within two business days of the daily cut-over period for retailer settlement. The cut-over period is the time of day established by the system to define the end of a transaction day for settlement and reconciliation.

(b) POS deployment. POS terminals shall be deployed as follows:

(1) For an FNS authorized retailer with Program benefit redemption amounting to 15 percent or more of total food sales, all checkout lanes shall be equipped;

(2) For an FNS authorized retailer with Program benefit redemptions representing less than 15 percent of total food sales, superstores and supermarkets shall, at a minimum, receive one terminal for every $11,000 in monthly redemption activity up to the number of lanes per store. All other food retailers shall receive one terminal for every $8,000 in monthly redemption activity up to the number of lanes per store. However, a State agency may utilize an alternative deployment formula that permits equipment deployment at higher levels than required by this paragraph up to the number of lanes in each store. The State agency shall review terminal deployment on a yearly basis and shall be authorized to remove excess terminals if actual redemption activity warrants a reduction.

(3) For newly authorized retailers, the State agency and retailer shall negotiate a mutually agreed level of terminal deployment up to the number of lanes per store. The State agency may consult with the appropriate FNS field office in order to determine the previous SNAP redemption activity that could be utilized in determining the initial number of terminals to deploy in newly authorized retailer firms. State agencies will also need to make accommodations for border stores that are deemed necessary for client access. To do so, State agencies must ensure that procedures are in place to process manual vouchers in instances when the system is down or for those retailers that do not have POS equipment. Redemption information shall remain confidential. Unauthorized release of redemption information is subject to penalties defined in Section 15 of the Food and Nutrition Act of 2008 (7 U.S.C. 2024).

(4) Any FNS authorized retailer shall be able to submit further evidence that it warrants additional terminals after the initial POS terminals are deployed. SNAP households may also submit evidence to the State agency that additional POS terminals are needed. State agencies may provide retailers with additional terminals above the minimum number required by this paragraph at customer service booths or other locations if appropriate.

(c) Retailer agreements. The State agency shall enter into an agreement with each authorized retailer. The retailer agreement shall describe the terms and conditions of participation in the SNAP EBT system. At a minimum, the agreement shall:

(1) Describe all terms and conditions with respect to equipment ownership, lease arrangements, handling and maintenance for which the State agency and merchant are liable;

(2) Describe the agreed upon procedures and policies for participation and withdrawal from the EBT system;

(3) Comply with all Program regulations with respect to retailer participation in the Program and treatment of SNAP households. This shall include specific requirements with respect to the deployment of terminals and the identification of checkout lanes for SNAP customers;

(4) Delineate the liabilities during system downtime and the associated responsibilities of each party with respect to the use of off-line and/or manually entered data, paper vouchers, and re-presented vouchers.

(d) Third party processors are financial institutions, cardholder authorization processors other than the party with which the State agency has contracted for EBT services, and food retailers driving their own terminals that are capable of relaying electronic transactions to a central database computer for authorization. The State agency shall afford retailers the opportunity to use third party processors and shall provide interface specifications and certification standards in order for the third party processor to participate in the EBT system.

(1) In order to participate in a SNAP EBT system, a third party processor must be able to meet all third party interface specifications and certification standards associated with § 274.8. The State agency shall make available to third party processors the third party interface specifications prior to implementation of the EBT system to enable third party processors to access the database. Third party processors shall undergo functional and acceptance tests as specified by the State agency;

(2) Third party processors shall be liable for transactions until the transaction has been electronically accepted by the contracted vendor or an intermediate processing facility;

(3) The State agency shall ensure that third party processors and food retailers driving their own terminals comply with this section and all applicable Program regulations.

(e) Managing retailer participation. The State agency shall:

(1) Convey retailer authorization information provided by FNS to the system operator using the Retailer EBT Data Exchange (REDE) system. The State agency must access the REDE files to ensure that the FNS retailer files used to authorize valid EBT SNAP transactions are updated on a daily basis.

(2) Follow-up on actions taken regarding any disqualification or withdrawal of an authorized retailer from the Program must occur within two business days after receipt;

(3) Add newly authorized retailers or third party processors to the EBT system as prescribed under paragraph (a)(1)(ii) of this section.

(4) Ensure that only currently authorized retailers can access the system;

(5) Monitor retailers to ensure that equipment deployment complies with paragraph (b) of this section;

(6) Ensure that equipment and supplies are maintained in working order for retail stores equipped by the State agency or its contractor. Equipment shall be replaced or repaired within 48 hours;

(7) Ensure that retail store employees are trained in system operation prior to redeeming benefits. Retailer training shall be offered by the State agency and include the provision of appropriate written and program specific materials. Retailers have the option to waive instruction by the State agency if they desire. State agencies shall direct retailers to confirm in writing that they are waiving their option to training;

(8) Conduct adjustments as prescribed under § 274.2(g) of this chapter;

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