Mobile payments were the ultimate fringe technology a few years ago, but now customers are catching on to the idea, thanks to Apple Pay. When Apple introduced its mobile payment solution, everyone suddenly took notice. Retailers were shocked to find that customers were not just using Apple Pay, they were enjoying the experience. While many clamored to get on the bandwagon, the Merchant Customer Exchange (MCX), a consortium of retailers who’d pledged allegiance to mobile payment competitor app CurrentC, moved quickly to shut down NFC payments in partners’ stores.
Since the news broke that CVS, Walmart, Kmart, and other big-name retailers wouldn’t accept Apple Pay or any other form of NFC-based mobile payment — even if the stores already had the proper payment terminals installed. Those who used Apple Pay and Google Wallet at these stores were furious and called the MCX out for discouraging competition in the mobile payment space. Angry NFC users posted bad reviews for the MCX’s as yet unreleased CurrentC app on the Google Play and iOS App stores. To make matters worse, early diagrams explaining how the QR code scanning app works indicate that CurrentC is not easy to use.
Now, Dekkers Davidson the CEO of MCX is trying desperately to stem the flow of bad press and rehabilitate CurrentC’s reputation. He recently told Recode that MCX is not trying to discourage competition, but rather give its own mobile payment solution some “breathing room,” presumably so that when the app launches it isn’t summarily ignored. He also said that the NFC payment ban will only last “months, not years,” adding that MCX isn’t forcing any of its retail partners to block Apple Pay or Google Wallet. Davidson pointed out that family-owned supermarket chain Meijer said it won’t prevent customers from using NFC payments in its stores, despite the exclusivity agreement. He said he thinks CVS turned off NFC payments to honor the deal.
Despite Davidson’s claims to the contrary, is seems unlikely that CVS and others shut down NFC payments just because their contract say they should. Many speculate that MCX fines those who disagree or at the very least, discourages its partners from allowing alternative payments.