When Apple originally introduced Apple Pay with the iPhone 6, it was widely assumed that mobile payments were finally poised to go mainstream. The harsh reality, though, is that Apple Pay has been somewhat slow to get off the ground. While the service itself is intuitive and works incredibly well, wide-scale adoption has only started to pick up in recent months.
One of the ongoing roadblocks Apple Pay has had to contend with is the fact that not every retailer supports Apple’s payment solution. In fact, some retailers like CVS went so far as to proactively disable NFC support on their POS machines specifically to preclude services like Apple Pay from being used.
The reason behind this lukewarm backlash against, if not downright aversion to, Apple Pay can be traced back to a consortium called Merchant Customer Exchange (MCX). MCX for a few years has been busy developing its own mobile payment platform dubbed CurrentC. Notably, CurrentC is backed by a who’s who list of top-level retailers, including Best Buy, Target, CVS, 7-Eleven, Walmart and dozens more.
Back in late 2014, it was assumed that CurrentC would ship by mid-2015. But the service was hampered by a seemingly endless string of delays and rumors of executive layoffs. And as Apple Pay began to gain traction with consumers, some MCX members like Best Buy and Rite Aid began easing up on their Apple Pay restrictions.
As 2015 rolled into 2016, we didn’t hear much about CurrentC. But late on Monday, MCX issued a statement (via TechCrunch) indicating that it was once again postponing the rollout of CurrentC. What’s more, MCX CEO Brian Mooney said that the company would be laying off 30 employees.
The statement reads as follows:
Utilizing unique feedback from the marketplace and our Columbus pilot, MCX has made a decision to concentrate more heavily in the immediate term on other aspects of our business including working with financial institutions, like our partnership with Chase, to enable and scale mobile payment solutions. As part of this transition, MCX will postpone a nationwide rollout of its CurrentC application. As MCX has said many times, the mobile payments space is just beginning to take shape – it is early in a long game. MCX’s owner-members remain committed to our future.
As a result, MCX will need fewer resources. This change has resulted in staff reduction of approximately 30 employees. These are very tough decisions, but necessary steps. For those employees leaving us, we want to thank our colleagues for their hard work and dedication to MCX over the last several years.
Also plaguing CurrentC was that it’s implementation of a mobile payment solution was deemed to be a bit clunky, to say the least. Instead of relying upon NFC, as Apple chose to do, CurrentC opted to go for QR codes directly linked to a consumer’s checking account. For many industry observers, it was clear form the outset that CurrentC was doomed. Not only was Apple Pay an objectively more efficient service, it was also more secure.
Interestingly enough, news of CurrentC’s delayed launch was immediately preceded by news that Walmart this week launched its own proprietary mobile payments solution appropriately dubbed Walmart Pay. Suffice it to say, it can’t be an encouraging sign when the biggest MCX member seemingly jumps ship to release their own payment app.
As it stands today, Walmart Pay is live in Texas and Arkansas with no word yet as to when stores in other locations will support the company’s new digital wallet. But much like CurrentC, the mechanics of Walmart Pay appear to be much more involved than what Apple Pay requires.
Walmart’s press release reads in part:
Checkout using Walmart Pay happens in three easy steps:
1. Open: Visit any register, open the Walmart app and choose Walmart Pay. Activate the camera.
2. Scan: At any time during checkout, simply scan the code displayed at the register. Walmart Pay is now connected.
3. Done: Associate scans and bags the items… and it’s done. An eReceipt will be sent to the app and can be viewed at any time.
Funny enough, ‘Done’ is actually one of the listed steps.
Kidding aside, it’s hard to envision a scenario where CurrentC is actually able to emerge from the ashes and become a service anyone actually uses. That being the case, one can only hope that some of MCX’s most ardent supporters have an about-face and begin accepting Apple Pay.