Fifth Third Processing Solutions LLC announced a service that can help the processor's smaller merchant clients validate their compliance with the Payment Card Industry data security standard.

PCI Assist, developed jointly with Advent International, is aimed at Level 4 merchants, those that handle fewer than 20,000 e-commerce transactions or fewer than 1 million card transactions a year.

While most large merchants are already in compliance with the standard, a significant number of smaller merchants still are not, observers say, and these companies sometimes lack the resources to achieve compliance on their own.

PCI Assist, announced Tuesday, consists of a set of online data tools that can help merchants protect card data by providing a set of security best practices and support for achieving compliance validation.

Fifth Third worked with Trustwave, a Chicago provider of compliance-validation and data security services, to create PCI Assist, which uses Trustwave's TrustKeeper Web portal. Merchants can use TrustKeeper in conjunction with Trustwave's PCI Wizard service to answer a personalized questionnaire that simplifies the complex PCI terminology.

TrustKeeper also helps merchants complete the PCI self-assessment questionnaire, schedule required vulnerability scans and receive compliance certificates.

Lynn Rhoads, a Fifth Third spokeswoman, said it is not charging its merchant clients for the PCI Assist service, including the vulnerability scans.