After several days of head-scratching over why Rite Aid and CVS blocked Apple pay in their stores after initially accepting it, executives from the Merchant Consumer Exchange (MCX), a group of retailers working on a rival to Apple Pay, finally spoke out.
During a press conference, MCX CEO Dekkers Davidson shot down an earlier report from the New York Times that said MCX members would suffer fines or penalties if they accepted Apple Pay.
“There are no fines to MCX merchants,” Davidson said. “There’s nothing in the structure that would have us do that. It’s simply not true. There are no fines.”
MCX members include retailers like Target, Wal-Mart, CVS, Rite Aid, and several other notable chains. The group is working on its own rival app to Apple Pay called CurrentC, which will be available on iPhone and Android early next year.
But CurrentC is being tested with a limited number of users now, and MCX notified them Wednesday that some personal email addresses were leaked. Davidson blamed a third-party email hosting service for the leak, but wouldn’t go into much detail beyond that.
The press conference with Davidson was pretty bizarre, with MCX’s PR team requesting written questions from reporters over email in advance. Davidson only responded to a select few questions, and his answers were often vague or incomplete. Reporters were not allowed to ask followups.
In an interview with Business Insider following the press conference, MCX COO Scott Rankin clarified some of Davidson’s responses.
Rankin said despite what has been reported, MCX retailers are allowed to use Apple Pay without suffering any sort of penalty. In fact, Rankin said MCX retailers can use both Apple Pay and CurrentC if they want to and they won’t be kicked out of MCX for doing so. Rankin couldn’t go into more detail about the CurrentC email hack, citing an ongoing investigation. Finally, Rankin said that although CurrentC will use barcodes on smartphones to make transactions, MCX is exploring other hardware options like the same near-field communication (NFC) technology Apple Pay uses.
Davidson also said MCX wanted to give retailers multiple choices for mobile payments, but didn’t expand much beyond that.
Still, MCX executives’ comments appear to contradict the written statement Davidson made Wednesday morning in a blog post:
Does MCX Require its Merchants to Only Offer CurrentC?
MCX merchants make their own decisions about what solutions they want to bring to their customers; the choice is theirs. When merchants choose to work with MCX, they choose to do so exclusively and we’re proud of the long list of merchants who have partnered with us. Importantly, if a merchant decides to stop working with MCX, there are no fines.
Back when the MCX merchants first got together, it was in response to a market that lacked a viable mobile wallet that would benefit both consumers and retailers. Today, we believe that need still exists, and our working group is getting ready to reveal a solution that is different from other mobile payment options in many important ways.
So either something changed between the time the blog post went up and MCX began talking to the press, or most interpreted the original statement incorrectly. Either way, MCX seems to be changing its tune.