Walmart-backed CurrentC ready to launch

The much anticipated and controversial retailer-backed payment platform CurrentC may finally be ready for its close up as it readies for public tests in August, and a rollout later this year. 

Created by the Merchant Customer Exchange (MCX) and founded in 2012, CurrentC promises to be a mobile payment platform that lets shoppers pay securely through an app. Since it was developed by retailers—and Walmart was the primary proponent in CurrentC's development—it also promises lower transaction costs and more control over customer data.

MCX is a group of retailers that includes some very heavy hitters like Walmart (NYSE:WMT), Macy's (NYSE:M), McDonald's (NYSE:MCD), Target (NYSE:TGT), Walgreens (NYSE:WAG) and Whole Foods (NASDAQ:WFM).

CurrentC has been tested by store employees of MCX members and will get a trial run in some stores, according to Bloomberg.

MCX expects to officially introduce the app sometime in the third quarter, a spokeswoman for Lowe's told Bloomberg. Lowe's is part of the consortium, but won't participate in the initial rollout.

MCX COO Scott Rankin confirmed that tests will take place this year, but declined to provide any more details, saying only that MCX was "making good progress" with app development.

The entire program has been mired in controversy since the launch of Apple Pay in October 2014. That event revealed that MCX members had pledged to exclusively accept CurrentC or pay a fine, which was realized in part when CVS and Rite Aid turned off Apple Pay functionality on POS terminals.

Since then, Apple Pay has grown the number of retailers that accept the mobile payment, including some Target and Walgreens. When asked about accepting both Apple Pay and CurrentC, one MCX member replied only that "it's complicated."

If and when CurrentC is rolled out to scale, it could include more than 110,000 locations, offer retailers more control of transaction data, and allow them to avoid swipe fees—although there are plans to add credit card payment options in the future. Another early advantage of MCX was it integrated with retailer's loyalty programs, a functionality that Apple Pay added along with several new features post launch.

There are few more pressing subjects in retail today than mobile payments: security, flexibility, access to data and the appeal to millennial shoppers.

"We expect there to be more than one successful player in mobile payments, and we expect to be one of them," said Rankin, a former executive at Staples.

For more:
-See this Bloomberg article
-See this FierceWireless story

Related stories:
Apple Pay woos retailers with new features
MCX sees ACH as interchange salvation. Many chains not so sure
MCX will not fine merchants for breaking exclusivity
Apple Pay vs. CurrentC is making a private industry matter public
Walmart says no to Apple Pay