Facing pressure from supporters of Appleâ€™s new mobile payment system, the consortium of major retailers creating a rival system said on Wednesday that it might adjust its strategy.
The group of retailers, known as the Merchant Customer Exchange, said that it could yet decide to use Near Field Communication capability, the technology that Apple Pay relies on to process transactions.
But the chief executive of the group said the technology was beside the point.
â€œI think thereâ€™s been a mistake made here, and that is focusing on the technology instead of what business or consumer problem youâ€™re trying to solve,â€ Dekkers Davidson, chief executive of the exchange, said in a telephone interview on Wednesday.
Adopting the technology would be a significant departure from the exchangeâ€™s original plans for CurrentC, the mobile wallet app the Merchant Customer Exchange is working on. CurrentC was built to work on so-called QR code technology, which acts like a scannable bar code. Mr. Davidson said this was because it was the fastest way to put the app, which will not be available until next year, in consumersâ€™ hands.
He noted that people in the industry had largely written off Near Field Communication as a mobile payment option â€” until, that is, Apple incorporated it.
â€œItâ€™s ironic in a way that weâ€™re talking about a really old technology being employed here,â€ Mr. Davidson said. â€œWay before Apple Pay, merchants hadnâ€™t enabled it or planned on using it.â€
The retailers have incentives to build their own wallet offerings. If CurrentC were to be successful, it could give participating merchants insight into how people shop. In some cases, it could let merchants pay lower processing fees on each transaction.
But exchange merchants are in a bind. The exchangeâ€™s contract prohibits partners from accepting competing mobile wallets, including Apple Pay. That means if Apple Pay is a hit, retailers will not be permitted to accept the form of payment as long as they are exchange partners.
A ccording to two sources close to the company, there are financial penalties for breaching the contract. These people declined to be named because they were not authorized to speak publicly. The exchange said on Wednesday that retailers would not be â€œfinedâ€ if they broke their contract, but it would not describe what happened if a partner breached the contract.
Also on Wednesday, the exchange disclosed that its email provider had been hacked, and that unauthorized parties had gained access to the email addresses of an undisclosed number of people.