It isn't being forced on them. They have the alternative of not accepting CC transactions, which is something many businesses do.
They also have the choice continuing to use the old equipment, but they then accept responsibility for fraudulent transactions that could have been prevented by using chip cards. Hell, as far as I know, they still have the option of imprinting paper slips and depositing them at the bank like checks, but the costs all end up on the merchant, as they should.
At some point we need to have progress, and magstripes need to die. Many technical standards have deadlines where old features stop being supported.
Mag stripes will be around for at least a decade, and probably two or three. But they'll be slowly phased out over the next few years for most people most of the time.
The merchants have had plenty of time to upgrade,
Sort of, but not really. Unless you're Walmart or Home Depot, you don't write your own processing software, you rely on your point of sale vendor, and very few point of sale vendors were ready by October of last year. Many small businesses simply did not have the option to start doing EMV by the deadline.
and plenty of warning that the end was coming. Most merchants support the change, since it is the merchants that pay the biggest price for fraud. That is why the plaintiffs are having problems organizing a class action. It is only a few whiners that are complaining.
Liability issues aside, any merchant complaining about EMV (with point of point encryption) is an idiot. EMV isn't about protecting consumers from fraud against their card (hence the chip & signature instead of chip & PIN), it's about protecting banks and merchant services from idiotic merchants who can't keep their network secure. Implement EMV with P2P encryption, and the merchant never sees the card in at all, and if someone breaks into their network, there's nothing to steal. Makes PCI compliance easier, and pretty much eliminates the chance of the merchant having to pay six figures to investigate a breach.