In the past week we’ve seen several retailers disable NFC sensors to block Apple Pay while others refused to support the mobile payments system all along. Now we finally know why and, as expected, it has to do with plans for a competing service called CurrentC slated to launch sometime next year.
The New York Times reports that members of the Merchant Customer Exchange (MCX), a group of retail giants backing CurrentC, could be forced to pay serious fines for supporting a competing service like Apple Pay. Several anonymous insiders told the paper that strict contracts block retailers from letting customers use Apple Pay, Google Wallet and other similar services. MCX boasts over 50 member companies, including Walmart, Best Buy, Gap, Rite Aid and CVS.
MCX says no such fines exist. “MCX merchants make their own decisions about what solutions they want to bring to their customers; the choice is theirs,” the company said in a statement following The New York Times report. “When merchants choose to work with MCX, they choose to do so exclusively and we’re proud of the long list of merchants who have partnered with us. Importantly, if a merchant decides to stop working with MCX, there are no fines.”
Recent reports have revealed that CurrentC may not be as convenient or secure for customers as Apple Pay, but it offers a clear advantage for the merchant poised to use it. The MCX-backed system cuts out credit card companies and their built-in transaction fees, instead connecting straight to a shoppers bank account or store loyalty card. CurrentC also provides merchants with customer data, while Apple Pay blocks out that information.
CurrentC is several years in the making, and most retailers signed those MCX contracts without realizing an option like Apple Pay would ever materialize. Now the same companies risk losing out on sales if Apple’s new service takes off, though it’s also possible that a lack of merchant support could stall Cupertino’s mobile payment system deployment.