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Consortium-backed Apple Pay competitor CurrentC to launch 'trial run' in August

CurrentC, the MCX-developed mobile payment platform backed by a number of major U.S. retailers, will reportedly see an initial trial run in August, signaling that the service is finally approaching a public launch.




That trial will be limited, three sources explained to Bloomberg, although they did not mention details. A spokeswoman for one company in the MCX consortium, Lowe's, said that a CurrentC app should launch sometime in the September quarter. MCX COO Scott Rankin confirmed only that tests are beginning this year and that the consortium is "making good progress" on the app.

"We expect there to be more than one successful player in mobile payments, and we expect to be one of them," he added.

CurrentC was created as a way for retailers to reduce fees paid to credit card comanies and other financial services, and has the backing of businesses like Best Buy, Walmart, CVS, and Wendy's. The service should also allow retailers to hold on to customer data, something they stand to lose if other mobile payment platforms catch on.

It faces several serious problems however, such as a potential lack of confidence —owing to a 2014 security breach —and no support for credit or debit cards other than store-issued ones. The only alternative will be giving MCX direct access to a checking account.

The biggest barrier is likely to be rival mobile payment platforms, above all Apple Pay and Android Pay. The former has already gained significant traction, and Android Pay will be available alongside the next version of Android, launching later this year. Since the platforms are being integrated into popular mobile devices, there may be little reason to install CurrentC unless a favorite retailer simply isn't accepting alternatives.

MCX did impose three-year exclusivity agreements on participating merchants, but Bloomberg sources said these are ending in August. One MCX partner, Best Buy, announced as far back as April that it would support Apple Pay by the end of 2015.