The spat between Apple Pay and a prototype rival system, CurrentC, is already relatively well documented. But according to a New York Times report, things go a little deeper: any merchant that's signed up to use CurrentC is legally forbidden from accepting Apple Pay.
The Times quotes numerous anonymous sources as saying that retailers who are part of the Merchant Customer Exchange, a group made up of merchants including the likes of Best Buy and Walmart, have exclusivity clauses in their contracts, meaning that accepting competing mobile payment options would result in steep fines.
That's almost certainly the reason for CVS and Rite Aid shutting down their NFC terminals last week to stop unofficial support for Apple Pay — they just didn't want to get hit with fines. That's an obvious blow for Apple, who want to get their payment system as widely accepted as possible — the 0.15 percent cut on transactions would add up to a serious chunk of cash, if Apple Pay becomes a common payment system.
But it's also a blow for consumers, as it's basically confirming that we're about to enter yet another goddamn standards war, pitting Apple Pay (and other mobile wallet solutions, like Google Wallet or Softcard) against CurrentC. Providing that the NYT's report is accurate, it means that we're pretty much doomed to a future without one all-encompassing way to pay for stuff with your phone. Although that sounds like a fairly first-world problem, it also means that the chronically insecure magstripe credit-card system is here to stay for a little while yet — and we all know how much that actually sucks. [New York Times]