CurrentC’s Apple Pay ban to expire in ‘months, not years’

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Apple Pay's biggest competitor has already been hacked. Photo: MXC
Photo: MXC

The seemingly never-ending saga of Apple vs. CurrentC may come to an end sooner than expected. When CVS and Rite Aid turned off NFC support to block Apple Pay, it became clear that were backing CurrentC, a rival mobile wallet service coming in 2015.

Despite repeatedly denying any sort of enforced Apple Pay ban, MCX, the consortium behind CurrentC, is holding its merchant partners to an exclusivity agreement. The good news is that the agreement is set to expire in less than a year.

MCX CEO Dekkers Davidson told Walt Mossberg at Recode that the 40 or so retailers in the consortium would be free of having to exclusively support CurrentC in “months, not years.” He explained that the strategy was to give CurrentC “breathing room” to grow in its early stages, which is a nice way of saving that MCX wants to avoid competition.

The details surrounding MCX, which has been a multi-year project lead primarily by Wal-Mart, remain pretty murky. The company has denied forcing any retailers to disable Apple Pay support, but it also admits to there being an exclusivity agreement in place. Interestingly, Meijer currently supports Apple Pay while being a MCX member, and the grocery store says it doesn’t plan to disable NFC.

CurrentC, which currently has thousands of one-star reviews in the App Store, is still in private beta. The app is currently QR-code based, although MCX has said it’s open to exploring NFC and Bluetooth has possible conduits for processing payments instead.

Last week CurrentC was hacked, resulting in email addresses from the private beta program being compromised. Unlike Apple Pay, CurrentC stores the user’s sensitive financial information on MCX’s servers.

Yesterday MCX gave a few more details about CurrentC to USA Today. The app won’t require the user’s driver license or social security number like it does now in the private beta. Retailers will be able to track users’ spending habits and offer rewards through the app.

Apple is rumored to launch a rewards program for Apple Pay by Christmas.