The Merchant Customer Exchange is facing harsh scrutiny after some of its merchants shut off all Near Field Communication capabilities to show allegiance with the merchant mobile wallet over Apple Pay.

The MCX wallet, CurrentC, was designed to use QR codes instead of NFC, but it may change its model following complaints from users of NFC wallets such as Apple Pay, Google Wallet and Softcard. The retailers in question also shut off their ability to accept bank-issued contactless cards. But now MCX is exploring the use of NFC, Bluetooth Low Energy and other wireless technologies.

"This isn't about the technology, it's about customer engagement … if we need to, we can pivot to NFC at the appropriate point of time," MCX CEO Dekkers Davidson said at a press conference Oct. 29.

MCX also countered claims that it is threatening merchants with fines if they break their exclusivity to MCX. "There are no fines to MCX merchants. It's simply not true," Davidson said.

Davidson did not address other details related to non-compete arrangements between merchants and MCX. "Merchants are free to make whatever choice they wish," he said. He also did not disclose investments merchants make in MCX or other details of participation.

MCX's CurrentC wallet is being tested with a small group of merchants, with a public rollout expected for early 2015. Davidson did not answer questions about what merchants should tell consumers who want to make mobile payments for holiday purchases, or want to use Apple Pay before CurrentC is available, saying those issues are in the hands of the merchants.

"Our merchants know their customers very well, and the relationships they have with their customers," he said.

Apple Pay and other digital wallets can eventually coexist with CurrentC, Davidson said, though he did not elaborate on any partnership or cooperative venture that may be in the works. "There is no harm for consumers for Apple Pay and Google Wallet to exist alongside CurrentC," he said.

Regarding the data breach MCX disclosed today, which affected the email addresses of some MCX users, Davidson said many of the emails were test emails, and MCX was investigating the cause. He did not disclose the company's email provider, and said the incident was not a concern for MCX's cloud-based system.

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