When CVS and Rite Aid quietly pulled the plug on Apple Pay, the iPhone’s new wireless payment wallet, over the weekend, it left customers confused. (Or with a bad taste in their mouths.) Word was, the sudden rift with Apple had something to do with CurrentC, a QR code-based payment standard that hasn’t even debuted in stores yet.
Now we know a bit more about what’s going on. The New York Times is reporting that CVS and Rite Aid–in addition to other retailers like Best Buy, Walmart, and GAP–belong to a consortium contractually obligated from using rival mobile payment methods like Apple Pay or Google Wallet, lest they incur hefty penalties. According to the report, the retailers signed contracts with the Merchant Customer Exchange, or MCX, years before Apple was prepared to rollout its own NFC-based payment system.
Here’s the thing: CurrentC is actually a boon for businesses because it connects directly with a customer’s checking account, meaning the retailer doesn’t incur traditional credit card fees. The problem is CurrentC isn’t set to roll out until 2015.
It puts retailers in something of a bind. Apple Pay is reportedly faring well with customers, with more than 1 million credit cards activated in the 72 hours following its debut. “The early ramp looks fantastic,” Apple CEO Tim Cook said on Monday. “It’s sort of that ‘ahh’ moment. You use the phone and that’s all you have to do.”
Apple obviously is hoping that adoption continues to snowball–perhaps one day extending the iPhone’s convenient NFC technology into other areas, like subway swipes–and that retailers change their mind: For every Apple Pay transaction processed, Cupertino takes a cut of 0.15%.
[h/t: NY Times]