Several leading retailers, including Walmart, Target and Gap, have also banded together to form a group called the Merchant Customer Exchange, known as MCX, which aims to come up with a mobile payment system of its own. MCX would allow retailers to circumvent the credit card companies, tapping directly into customers' bank accounts. Retailers said they would also then retain control of their customer data, rather than having to share it as they might if customers paid with a service like Google Wallet.
To attract customers, MCX plans to offer a loyalty points program to receive discounts on future purchases at stores including Banana Republic, Wendy's and Kmart.
But MCX, which was announced nearly two years ago, has yet to unveil a working product. MCX declined to comment or to provide an updated timeline.
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Chris McWilton, president of North American markets at MasterCard, pointed to failed efforts by mobile telephone companies to develop payment networks some years ago.
"The retailers are going to go through a similar experience if they try to create their own payment network," Mr. McWilton said. "It's not going to be as easy as they think."
He also cautioned new entrants against underestimating the security risks.
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"We get hundreds of attempted hacks a day on our network," he said. "We spend billions on security. Do you really want to play this game?"
Nonetheless, the MCX effort, backed by some of the biggest retailers in the country, speaks to their continued distaste for the so-called processing fees.
"The core motivator behind MCX is a deep-seated hatred of interchange fees for credit and debit cards," said Jordan McKee, an analyst at the Yankee Group. "On the surface it looks like a means for merchants to engage with customers, but it's really about shifting consumers to a less costly means for paying for goods and services."
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Indeed, there is a tremendous amount of bad blood swirling around behind the scenes. In interviews, Mallory Duncan, the general counsel for the National Retail Federation, called Visa and MasterCard a "duopoly" and some of their behavior "devious." Mr. Duncan asserted that Visa's push into EMV chip technology is motivated less by security concerns than by a desire to get EMV terminals into wide circulation. Those are often installed with Near Field Communication readers, Visa's preferred mobile payment technology, and would give the company a head start in the move to mobile and "lock in Visa's dominance of payments well into the 21st century," Mr. Duncan said in an email.
(American Express fees tend to cost retailers more, but the company has a much smaller share of the market than either Visa or MasterCard.) In a lawsuit filed against Visa this spring, in United States District Court in Arkansas, Walmart, the country's largest retailer, said that Visa had "engaged in a conspiracy with some of the nation's largest banks to illegally fix" and inflate various fees.