CurrentC mobile payments hit delays as retailer exclusivity ends
Yesterday we found ourselves revisiting an old story, as Rite Aid announced it would soon welcome mobile payments via Apple Pay and Google Wallet in its drugstores. This was the same company that used to accept any and all mobile payments, but shut its own contactless payment terminals down in a seemingly spiteful reaction to last year’s launch of Apple Pay. As we learned at the time, Rite Aid felt obligated to turn off those systems due to its involvement with the MCX consortium, a group fronting its own alternate payment system, CurrentC. Now a new report explains why Rite Aid might be feeling that change of heart, and updates us on progress bringing CurrentC to market.
The CurrentC system is supposed to differ from established mobile payment systems by making it extra-attractive to retailers, and it will do so my not supporting payments through standard credit cards. The reason there are the high fees retailers pay when accepting such payment; instead, CurrentC will draw funds from debit accounts or store-issued credit cards.
MCX members had agreed to an exclusivity agreement that prevented them from accepting competing mobile payment solutions, with the idea that it would give CurrentC a chance to catch on. Problem is, CurrentC isn’t ready just yet, and public testing won’t even get started for several more weeks.
When retailers like Rite Aid signed those exclusivity agreements, CurrentC was presumably expected to be live by now, and the documents had provisions to expire this month – hence Rite Aid’s sudden reversal.
That may put CurrentC at a further disadvantage when it does finally arrive. Considering how the big selling points of the service are all retailer-focused, and don’t directly benefit the consumer (there’s stuff like offering the occasional coupon to tempt shoppers, but that may not be a long-term solution – and the inability to use credit cards sounds like a big inconvenience), the MCX group has its work cut out for it.