CurrentC Must Coexist With Apple Play to Survive in Retail World

By Wayne Rash  |  Posted 2014-11-03 Print this article Print
CurrentC Payments B

Cash, after all, has its own security problems, no protections, and it's labor intensive--and that makes cash, the nation's legal tender, the coin of the realm, expensive to accept. No wonder Wal-Mart wishes we'd all just use our debit cards to buy stuff.

But these days customers don't necessarily want to pay with cash if they have a choice. Cash is insecure, it's easy to lose, easy to steal and it’s a tempting target for criminals because it's hard to trace. For major purchases such as new televisions or even cell phones, cash is problematic. So in these areas, credit cards rule.

The problem with credit cards is that they're slow because you have to sign for the goods you buy and merchants want to speed up the payment process. Enter Apple Pay. Using Apple Pay is very fast, very easy and requires nothing more than your fingerprint if you want to get that seasonal pumpkin latte and a sausage biscuit.

But Apple Pay has a problem, too. Unless you have an iPhone 6 or 6 Plus, you can't use it. CurrentC might be a great solution, but it's not available and it will only work with debit cards and store credit cards as it's currently envisioned. On the other hand, CurrentC will work with nearly any smartphone, regardless of whether it supports NFC (Near Field Communications) or not.

But the way the CurrentC plan works, you can either accept CurrentC or you can accept Apple Pay, but not both. Accepting only CurrentC means the same thing as not accepting anything since it doesn't actually work yet. This puts merchants in the position of either turning away business or abandoning CurrentC. Since these merchants have spent a lot of time and money while CurrentC has languished, it's understandable why they want it to succeed.

But perhaps this is all changing. During last week's press conference, Dekker Davison, the CEO of MCX, the merchant consortium that created CurrentC, said that the consortium wouldn't prevent members from accepting Apple Pay, despite contractual language saying otherwise.

That prompted Meijer, a Midwest grocery and retail chain, to decide not to shut down its NFC terminals and to continue accepting Apple Pay, Google Wallet and other forms of contactless payment.

In reality, the delays that have impacted CurrentC, along with rapid developments in retail payment technology, have forced MCX into a position of having to give in to reality. If CurrentC is to survive, it must offer customers something of value so they want to use it. That "something of value" could very well be ease of use, support for nearly any phone and broad acceptance, coupled with the ability to embed loyalty cards.

But CurrentC can't survive if MCX persists in trying to enforce exclusivity. The time for that has passed. Now, the MCX's best chance for making it in the market is by being a better solution for most people. But aren't those the very factors that retailers depend on to stay in business?


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