CHICAGO —Heartland Payment Systems CEO Bob Carr will never be accused of not making his feelings known about the Merchant Customer Exchange mobile wallet venture.

A year ago at the annual Mobile Payments Conference, Carr proclaimed that the imminent rollout of Apple Pay was "the final nail in the coffin" of MCX. This year, Carr simply said, "I am sticking with that."

It's not that Carr has any particular grudge against the major retailer's joint venture and still-developing CurrentC mobile wallet. He just doesn't care for the model.

MCX and its mobile wallet vision were built as a defensive measure against the card brands and interchange fees, rather than as an open platform that would serve consumers' best interests, Carr said during a Sept. 1 presentation at the conference.

Because some members blocked Apple Pay when it debuted, and the CurrentC model was not going to operate on Near Field Communication and probably lacked any biometric authentication option, retailers were jumping to Apple Pay, Carr said.

"When you are Best Buy and one of your best product lines is Apple, how do you tell them you are not going to accept Apple Pay?" Carr said, referring to Best Buy's initial reluctance to accept the mobile wallet and eventual about-face.

"MCX is best described as a temper tantrum by the big merchants," Carr said in an interview after his presentation. "It was formed to eliminate interchange and, thus, eliminate the ability for people to use their credit cards to buy products. It doesn't add up."

Heartland is working on a mobile wallet model that would emphasize an open platform available to all merchant apps, loyalty programs and cross-merchant rewards programs, Carr said.

The industry can expect to see a lot more movement in this direction in the future, he added.

The Plenti cross-merchant loyalty program managed by American Express "has a lot of legs" in offering something that will resonate with consumers and emphasize an open platform, Carr said.

Ironically, the Plenti cross-merchant rewards program introduces many of the consumer shopping experience facets that MCX spoke about early on in creating an app that would provide a payment method and offers in the same manner no matter which store it was used in.

Carr is not the only payments executive singing the praises of an open-platform mobile wallet model. Electronic transactions organization Nacha has formed a Mobile Wallet Team with an open, common commerce model in focus, albeit an Automated Clearing House driven wallet.

Carr's indifference toward MCX and other ventures that ignore a platform open to all merchants and loyalty programs falls in line with some of the veteran payments executive's other pet peeves, including deceptive trade practices within the industry that he says have unfolded for years essentially unchecked.

Some public companies still inflate interchange, dues and assessments without notifying merchants, or falsely offer "free" programs" or deploy other deceptive practices, Carr said.

And he continues to have a keen awareness of security issues, considering his company was thrust into the spotlight in 2008 for a major data breach and, more recently, had to deal with a physical break in at its payroll office in Santa Ana, Calif.

To that end, Carr is convinced that EMV is a strong security measure for the industry, as well as end-to-end encryption of data. His enthusiasm for encryption is evident in Heartland's consistent push for merchants to deploy the security measure.

In addition, Heartland has established a referral agreement with risk management provider Verifi to provide more protection for e-commerce merchants who are likely to absorb the brunt of fraud attempts after EMV takes hold at the physical point of sale.

"What is happening is that we are taking everything out of scope so the bad guys can't get at the data," Carr said. "Why everyone is not encrypting all of the data all of the time, I don't know."

 

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