After several days of defensive interviews about merchant restrictions and an E-mail data breach, the CEO of MCX is finally talking up advantages for shoppers to try the CurrentC system to be rolled out next year.
“When you go to the gas station today, you’ll often see a credit price and a cash price. And the difference can sometimes be 10, 20 cents a gallon depending on where the price of gasoline is pegged. If you want to go pay for gas, you have to get out, walk into a store, either make the cash payment, or say ‘I’m going to fill it up’ and walk back in,” MCX CEO Dekkers Davidson said in an interview with The Verge. “So here’s a world that is possible. You can drive up to the pump and, using low energy Bluetooth, the pump can actually recognize that it’s Ben who’s pulled up. If you are on the CurrentC network, and you have pre-authorized a certain payment method, the merchant then has the opportunity to adjust and roll back the price at the pump to either a cash price, or something that’s much lower than you’d pay with the current credit network.”
A mobile payment price that is the same as the cash price? If it can be delivered, that is finally a concrete advantage over Apple Pay.
Davidson also gave his most direct pitch yet on the convenience potential with integrated rewards points. He promised a much more streamlined experience than exists today in a non-mobile world, but it’s unclear how it would compare to what Apple Pay may eventually offer.
“You’re probably aware that CVS and Rite Aid, particularly CVS has one of the world’s largest loyalty program going. Today, when you go to CVS, you pay and then you have to have a separate conversation about your loyalty program. If you want to redeem, it’s a fairly tedious process. And I’m generally someone in a hurry, so for me it’s even worse to be in line, behind someone trying to effect this transaction. It involves a lot of stress and anxiety,” Davidson said. “So when you show up at the point of sale for any merchant that has a loyalty program, for example it rings up $82.11, and I have $55 of credit I can redeem right now. [With the CurrentC app] I hit a button, $55 is subtracted from the $82.11, and I pay $22.11 and I’m out. I also can see the points are taken out, and also the rewards when they’re added in. You can do the same thing with offers, the same thing with coupons, which is you’re walking into a store, you have a coupon for Pampers, that says two for one, and you can push the button and activate that offer, at the point of sale it’s done automatically.”
The CEO was also asked about the merchant restrictions and he took another shot at addressing this will-never-die issue.
“Look, I’m an entrepreneur, I’ve run businesses, startup businesses for 20 years. As CEO of this venture, I’ve never in my career found that you get much mileage when you tell your customers what they can or cannot do. And so we’re not operating that way. From MCX’s perspective, we’re focused on building a compelling, affirmative, value proposition for our merchants or consumers. The respective decisions CVS and RiteAid made, and Meijer made, they have to make the decision that’s best for their business,” he said.
That said, he argued, it’s not like they are going to let merchants ignore the agreed-upon rules and be unpunished.
“There are consequences. So if you decide to not keep the agreement that you made with the other merchants, we’re not going to put a lot of energy in helping get those merchants launched in the near term. We’re a small startup venture, less then 100 people, so we’re going to focus on those that are keeping connected to one another. So this exclusivity that they’ve acknowledged is very short-lived, I can tell you it’s measured in months, not years.”
This time, though, Davidson came up with an iPhone zinger about the lock-in issue.
“I would observe parenthetically that I don’t think too many people complained when Apple went to market with the exclusive that you could only buy it at AT&T, which was the case for a while, and I think that was a reasonable business decision that Apple made, and they did what was in their best interest, and while Verizon customers may have been disappointed, they has made a choice as well,” he said. “I think every business has a good sense for what’s right for them and, most importantly, what’s right for their consumers and they have to make that decision for themselves. And I think that’s happened here.”