Apple Pay

CurrentC COO Goes On The Defensive

Officials with the not-yet-launched CurrentC mobile payment app from MCX have started trying to defend their app from comparisons with Apple Pay, saying that many of the unkind comments about CurrentC are not true.

MCX COO Scott Rankin told USA Today, for example, that reports that shoppers will have to give out their Social Security numbers and allow the system to take a photograph of their driver’s license might be out of context. Those are indeed requirements for a current pilot test—”currently under way with an undisclosed bank”—so it’s understandable why that belief would be prevalent. But Rankin said it’s not certain that such needs will exist during the full launch, although he didn’t rule it out. “We do not expect to have those requirements when we launch,” he said.

He also made the argument that CurrentC’s focus on payment mechanisms other than the major credit card brands—MCX has said that it might, at some time in the future, accept them, in the same way that it might someday accept NFC—is not problematic. The story quoted him saying that about 75 percent of all purchases at the 50 MCX merchants are done via cash, debit cards, gift and store issued private label credit cards. “We believe paying through checking will not be the most prevalent way to pay,” he said.

“By using the CurrentC app, consumers can speed up the checkout process, because they will bypass fishing for coupons to present to the clerk, as they will be included within the app,” Rankin said, according to the story. It’s a valid point. iPhones, though, do have an app that will do all of that as well, but it is a separate area from the Apple Pay app.

Rankin also defended the QR codes CurrentC is slated to initially use. Instead of being clunky, as some have said, he paints it as easy. “You pull out the phone, open the app, click pay and a QR code is displayed. She scans it, and you’re done. It’s like when the QR code is sent to you by the airline and you use it for your boarding pass. It’s frictionless,” he said.

He then weighed in—sort of—on the exclusivity controversy. When asked how long the term of the agreement last, he said “It’s closer to months than years.” As President Clinton used to say, it depends on your definition of “it.” In 2011 and early 2012, when MCX was signing up its first retail members, many of the contracts specified a three-year period of exclusivity. Of course, those three years were based on when that merchant signed the contract, so those restrictions will expire at different times, as each retailer’s 3-year-period expires. It’s therefore quite true that today, in October 2014, some of those contracts have already expired and many others are mere months away from expiring.

Rankin wasn’t the only MCX official talking to the media.

MCX CEO Dekkers Davidson chatted with Recode. And when he discussed exclusivity, he miraculously used the exact same phrase (“months, not years”) to describe the exclusivity expirations. From Recode: “Davidson explained (that) MCX insisted on exclusivity for now, to provide ‘breathing room’ for the development of CurrentC. When I asked whether that meant the merchants didn’t want another system to catch on, he said no, and repeatedly explained what a massive undertaking CurrentC is. He added that the exclusivity rule would expire in ‘months, not years.’ Davidson flatly denied that MCX had ordered CVS to turn off Apple Pay and he speculated that CVS might have simply done so because it had signed the exclusivity policy. He noted that one MCX member, the family-owned Midwest supermarket chain Meijer, hasn’t shut off Apple Pay.”

What wasn’t addressed was whether Meijer was still within its contract exclusivity.

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