Subscribe / Unsubscribe Enewsletters | Login | Register

Pencil Banner

MCX says CurrentC is less about tech, more about relationships

Martyn Williams | Oct. 30, 2014
The company behind CurrentC, an in-store mobile payment system backed by some of the biggest retailers in the U.S., attempted on Wednesday to play down a growing controversy over whether its backers could accept Apple Pay.

The company behind CurrentC, an in-store mobile payment system backed by some of the biggest retailers in the U.S., attempted on Wednesday to play down a growing controversy over whether its backers could accept Apple Pay.

Dekkers Davidson, CEO of Merchant Customer Exchange (MCX), said its members, which include retailers such as Walmart, Shell, 7-Eleven, Dunkin Donuts, Sears, Old Navy, Best Buy, Exxon Mobil and Gap, are free to make their own decisions on payment systems.

The comments, which came in a conference call, represented the first time MCX had addressed a sudden flood of online criticism about its technology.

Formed in 2012, MCX had existed largely unnoticed until last week when two of its members — drug store chains Rite Aid and CVSabruptly stopped accepting Apple Pay and Google Wallet, which use a wireless chip payment technology called NFC.

Those decisions put MCX's system, called CurrentC, into the spotlight. CurrentC is based on a barcode that's displayed on a shopper's phone and scanned by a cashier. To many, that's not as elegant as Apple Pay, so it was written off by many tech pundits as doomed to fail.

Though MCX initially kept quiet, pressure on the company to address the issue increased on Wednesday when the New York Times reported that member retailers were contractually bound not to accept competing mobile payment systems and would face "steep fines" if they did.

Hours later, it was also reported that the company had been hacked and the email addresses of users had been leaked.

Davidson confirmed one of its email providers had been hacked but said its payment system had not been compromised. He also disputed the report that retailers faced fines if they chose to accept competing mobile payment methods.

"Merchants make their own choices about their commitment to MCX," he said. "They make their own choice about other forms of payment."

On the call, which lasted about 30 minutes, with reporters asking questions through a moderator, Davidson indicated the driving force behind CurrentC was the relationships that retailers could build with shoppers. The technology used, he said, was secondary.

As envisaged, shoppers will pass certain data about themselves to a retailer when making an in-store purchase with the CurrentC app. The incentives for doing so will be set by retailers, and shoppers won't have to share any information if they don't want to.

"If consumers choose to be anonymous to merchants with mobile, they will be allowed to do that," he said.

Getting a deeper insight into customers and their spending habits is valuable for retailers. Many offer loyalty cards to collect such data, and it's the kind of thing that's missing today when a customer swipes a credit card — or uses Apple Pay.

 

1  2  Next Page 

Sign up for CIO Asia eNewsletters.