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Mobile Communications

CurrentC mobile-payment pilot ends

Merchant Customer Exchange (MCX) shut down a Columbus, Ohio, pilot of its CurrentC mobile payment service this week.

The company said on its website that it has "not determined the future timing of CurrentC" although some analysts have said for a while they doubted the service would continue due to pressure from Apple Pay, Samsung Pay and others.

In an emailed statement, an MCX spokesman said, "We removed CurrentC from the app stores to coincide with the scheduled end of our Columbus, Ohio beta at the end of June. We've not announced future timelines or plans around the app but we're looking forward to analyzing and learning from the data we gleaned throughout the beta."

On its website, CurrentC added: "We want to say a special thank you to everyone who participated in our CurrentC Beta test" in Columbus, Ohio. "We will be concluding our Beta on June 28. Please stay tuned for new information on CurrentC as our future plans evolve."

On a separate website, MCX still lists 63 companies including Target and Walmart as merchants that accepted CurrentC, which relied on the free CurrentC smartphone app. The idea was to centralize merchant loyalty rewards and payment accounts, and automatically apply coupons and promotions to use at checkout with the various merchants.

But CurrentC in its latest form in the pilot was not seen as a full competitor to Apple Pay, Samsung Pay or others that pair a virtual credit or debit card with an NFC or magnetic technology payment to a payment terminal in a store. Late last year, Walmart set up its own related service with Walmart Pay.

While there has been growth in mobile payments since 2014, it has been slower than first expected.

The U.S. Federal Reserve found last year that 75% of the 2,137 people it surveyed didn’t use mobile payments because they found it easier to use cash or a credit or debit card. Accenture said last year that mobile payment use was flat, growing just 1% over 2014, based on a survey of 4,000 smartphone users in North America.

Jordan McKee, an analyst at 451 Research, said that MCX is "quickly nearing" its end. He said competition between MCX members like Target and Walmart was "innovation stifling." He also said there was "collective paranoia over data-sharing" that ensured CurrentC would never make it past beta.

Primarily, he said, the merchants have all been obsessed with circumventing the fees they must pay to card providers for each transaction and “entirely lost sight of how they would add value for customers. . . The bottom line is that it's very unlikely the consortium will ever evolve into anything meaningful for consumers."

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