The Current C technology will enable mobile payments using scanable QR codes instead of near field communications.
by Michael del Castillo -
The UpTake: The payments space is not going to be easily disrupted, no matter how attractive the products might seem. Sides are already forming that indicate the deep loyalty users have for their favorite brands.
Last week Apple launched Apple Pay, a platform that lets hundreds of thousands of companies accept major credit cards using near field communication (NFC) technology. But even as the product went live a consortium of other businesses was discreetly working on its own payments platform designed to completely remove fees associated with accepting credit cards using little more than a QR code.
The stage is set for what will likely be an ugly battle. In Apple’s camp, which is already supported by 200,000 retail locations, are supporters of an NFC-enabled future with seamless credit card transactions. In the consortium’s camp, known as Current C, originally spearheaded by Walmart but now incorporated as a separate entity, the credit card companies are removed altogether, as is NFC-technology.
Then, this weekend, CVS and Rite-Aid, partners in the Current C project, pulled the plug on all NFC-enabled technology in their stores, effectively killing Apple Pay, and interestingly, all other tap-to-pay platforms, including Apple’s arch nemesis, GoogleWallet, and Softcard, according to a Bloomberg report yesterday.
It didn’t take long for what one protestor described on Reddit as the “unholy alliance” to form: users of the Apple SubReddit and the Android SubReddit are joining forces to protest Current C’s partners—which according to a TechCrunch report now consists of 110,000 retail stores representing $1 trillion.
“Let’s invite /r/Android to help us boycott retailers that are disabling NFC readers,” reads the boycott call posted by Apple supporters. “We can unite to put pressure on them, since it affects us both!” And in the Android SubReddit, a mirror post. “We wanted to invite you to /r/apple to help support us boycotting retailers that are disabling NFC. It affects us both!”
How big could such a boycott end up being? Versus the Current C gang, which not only includes Walmart, CVS, and RiteAid, but other behemoths such as Shell, Exxon Mobil, Bed Bath and Beyond, and SouthWest Airlines, is an estimated 1 billion Android users and 470 million Apple users, though not all of those phones are currently NFC-enabled, and certainly not all of them are using mobile wallets as payments, yet.
The Current C app is expected to go live sometime next year, and though the details of the partnerships are unclear, based on the CVS and Rite-Aid move to kill NFC tech, it appears at least some of the contracts are exclusive.