The exclusivity deal that's preventing retailers like CVS and Rite Aid from accepting Apple Pay is set to expire within "months, not years" according to Dekkers Davidson, CEO of Merchant Customer Exchange (MCX). Davidson revealed the timeframe in an interview with Recode. MCX is working on its own mobile payments solution, CurrentC, which will start showing up at dozens of retail chains like Walmart, Best Buy, Kmart, and CVS next year. An exclusivity window is needed to allow "breathing room" during CurrentC's development, claimed Davidson. Using CurrentC's app sounds clunkier and slower than Apple Pay, but the service — built by this consortium of huge retailers — lets consumers tap into loyalty rewards programs and coupons. That's one thing Apple Pay doesn't yet offer. More importantly, CurrentC could also help merchants avoid the credit card fees they've been paying for decades.
'Breathing room' sounds an awful lot like 'avoiding competition'
But iPhone 6 and 6 Plus owners became incensed when CVS and Ride Aid both abruptly stopped accepting Apple Pay (and other NFC-based payment methods like Google Wallet) shortly after launch. CVS was never mentioned as a partner in Apple's plans, but the feature worked flawlessly at its payment terminals up until CVS pulled the plug and literally disabled the NFC function to cripple Apple Pay. During a media call last week, Davidson tried to defend MCX merchants by underlining that each had "invested their time and money and effort" into CurrentC, and thus had every right to choose it as their preferred mobile payments system.
It's the complete lockout of Apple Pay that has many consumers upset, and Davidson suggested retailers involved with MCX are free to walk away from CurrentC at any time without facing fines. There is an exclusivity agreement in place, suggesting that merchants may face penalties if they choose to accept CurrentC and Apple Pay simultaneously. But the threat of fines hasn't stopped Meijer from playing on both sides and continuing to take Apple Pay as the launch of CurrentC approaches. It's just a shame it'll be "months" before MCX officially allows everyone else to join the grocery chain.