Remember CurrentC, the mobile payment service that kept getting in Apple’s way when Apple Pay launched a few years ago? MCX is the merchant consortium that was behind the QR code-based mobile payment service that ultimately never launched, and today JPMorgan Chase announced that it has acquired MCX’s payment technology.
After laying off some 30 employees last month, The Merchant Consortium Exchange, or MCX, announced today that it is ending its the ongoing CurrentC beta test and postponing all future releases. The beta test will be suspended on June 28th, according to an email sent to beta testers in Columbus, Ohio and obtained by The Consumerist.
Remember MCX CurrentC, the QR-code based mobile payment system that attempted to take on Apple Pay? Launched two years ago, it immediately started creating waves when it required its retail members to switch off Apple Pay or be fined. If that weren’t bad enough, it was quickly hacked.
When Apple Pay launched in the US late last year, Apple’s mobile payment system was officially accepted by several launch partners and unofficially supported by even more retailers and vendors. Then a small number of retailers banded together as members of the Merchant Customer eXchange actually disabled mobile payment support at checkout in favor of an upcoming CurrentC payment system. Drug store chains CVS and Rite Aid were among the first to block Apple Pay support after initially accepting it and even prompting a response from Apple. Now Rite Aid is ending that blockade as it announced today that it will officially accept Apple Pay starting this weekend. Expand Expanding Close
MCX, the merchant consortium behind the Apple Pay competitor known as CurrentC, has announced today that CEO Dekkers Davidson is being replaced by Brian Mooney. MCX has given Mooney the title of interim CEO, which makes it unclear as to whether the consortium is actively looking for another CEO to replace Dekkers Davidson or if Mooney is the permanent choice.
Apple Pay, which allows users to securely pay in stores using the latest models of the iPhone simply by placing the smartphone near a special terminal, uses your existing credit or debit card without revealing personal information like your name or card number to merchants.
In practice, Apple Pay is a real delight to use as a payment method as it feels a bit like you’re skipping the payment process altogether; I imagine moving from cash and checks to debit and credit cards years ago felt similar. There’s still a social oddity about paying with your phone in many parts of the United States in 2015, though, which I’m not sure happened with the transition to using cards. Expand Expanding Close
Staples shared in an announcement today that it is now accepting Apple Pay transactions at its “over 1,200 stores” in the United States for iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus users. Apple Pay, of course, will also be available for iPhone 5, iPhone 5c, and iPhone 5s users starting next year when paired with the upcoming Apple Watch. Apple included Staples in its list of retail partners when announcing its secure mobile payment service, although Apple noted that support would be “coming later this year” from the retailer as it was available in time for last month’s launch. Expand Expanding Close
Walmart is one of several high-profile retailers that belong to MCX, a consortium of retailers that have partnered together to create their own mobile payments service called CurrentC. Due to this commitment, the big-box retailer has opted against supporting Apple Pay in its stores. A new report offers a big reason why: high credit card transaction fees.
While Apple Pay has grabbed all the attention in the mobile payment field, with the Google Wallet service launched back in 2011 having failed to make the same kind of splash, it appears that Google may be benefiting from the publicity generated by Apple. Sources cited by arsTechnica report that Google Wallet service has seen the number of users almost double, with a 50% increase in weekly transactions during the past couple of months … Expand Expanding Close
Previously, the MCX CEO only vaguely hinted that the retail consortium would consider allowing participants to accept both CurrentC, which is still in development, and Apple Pay, which launched in the United States earlier last month, saying that the scenario “could be entirely possible.” Expand Expanding Close
While CurrentC consortium MCX’s contracts state that members cannot accept competing forms of mobile payment, Midwest grocery chain Meijer appears to be the first member to break ranks by continuing to allow NFC payment – including Apple Pay.
Michigan Live quotes spokesman Frank Guglielmi as saying that the chain’s 213 grocery and gas outlets have no plans to block Apple Pay.
We have had the technology in our stores to accept mobile wallets for several years now. If a customer has Apple Pay capability, our hardware works with it […] We don’t plan to remove or disable these systems.
Meijer is currently shown on both Apple Pay and MCX websites:
While the MCX consortium’s CurrentC mobile payment service isn’t due to launch until next year, it has been carrying out limited trials, facilitated by placing the app in the iTunes store. iPhone owners have been expressing their displeasure at the blocking of Apple Pay by MCX members by rating and reviewing the app.
At the time of writing, the app had accumulated 2,856 1-star reviews against a total of just 30 reviews giving it 2 stars or more … Expand Expanding Close
Earlier this week, retailers CVS and Rite Aid blocked NFC payments at their stores following the launch of Apple Pay because of their existing commitment to MCX’s CurrentC platform. Nevertheless, MCX CEO Dekkers Davidson assures that merchants accepting both CurrentC and Apple Pay “could be entirely possible” in the future.
CurrentC, the much discussed infamous competitor to the Apple Pay mobile payments platform, has some more bad press coming its way. According to an email sent out this morning to its pilot program customers, the MCX service has already been hacked. According to the notice, “unauthorized third parties” obtained email address information for an unannounced number of users:
Thank you for your interest in CurrentC. You are receiving this message because you are either a participant in our pilot program or requested information about CurrentC. Within the last 36 hours, we learned that unauthorized third parties obtained the e-mail addresses of some of you. Based on investigations conducted by MCX security personnel, only these e-mail addresses were involved and no other information.
In an abundance of caution, we wanted to make you aware of this incident and urge you not to open links or attachments from unknown third parties. Also know that neither CurrentC nor Merchant Customer Exchange (MCX) will ever send you emails asking for your financial account, social security number or other personally identifiable information. So if you are ever asked for this information in an email, you can be confident it is not from us and you should not respond.
MCX is continuing to investigate this situation and will provide updates as necessary. We take the security of your information extremely seriously, apologize for any inconvenience and thank you for your support of CurrentC.
For those not following the MCX vs. Apple Pay saga, MCX powers a payments platform utilized by key retailers such as WalMart, CVS, and RiteAid. After initially supporting NFC-based payments via Apple Pay and Google Wallet, those aforementioned retailers shut down their industry standard NFC-based payment processing systems in favor of the CurrentC app from MCX.
MCX, the retailer consortium behind the CurrentC mobile payment system, has responded to the controversy over its members being required to block Apple Pay or face fines with some unconvincing ‘assurances.’
The problem is that under the terms of their MCX contractual agreement, they are not supposed to accept competing mobile payments products like Apple Pay, according to multiple retailers involved with MCX, who spoke on the condition of anonymity. If these retailers break their contracts, they will face steep fines for doing so, these people said.
Apple has provided the following statement to Business Insider when asked about CVS and Rite Aid both blocking Apple Pay at their checkout terminals:
The feedback we are getting from customers and retailers about Apple Pay is overwhelmingly positive and enthusiastic. We are working to get as many merchants as possible to support this convenient, secure and private payment option for consumers. Many retailers have already seen the benefits and are delighting their customers at over 220,000 locations.
Earlier today CVS confirmed in a statement to CNBC that it will not be accepting Apple Pay after users previously reported being able to the chain’s NFC terminals: Expand Expanding Close
CVS Pharmacy has decided to disable all NFC terminals in all of its stores after it was discovered that Apple Pay would work with the hardware. CVS sent a memo to its stores, which was posted by SlashGear, saying that Apple Pay was not a supported payment type and that customers would have to choose some other payment method in order to check out.
The notice also explains the reason for the change: CVS is currently part of a consortium of retailers attempted to create an alternative mobile payment method called CurrentC. The new system isn’t based on NFC. It is, however, based on something you’ve probably seen before…