Alibaba and Apple Pay flirt with 'marriage' as CEO Tim Cook scolds US retailers dropping NFC payments

Tim Cook claims retailers not using Apple Pay will not be 'relevant'

Apple chief executive Tim Cook has hit out at US retailers, including Walmart, for having dropped Apple Pay, hinting that it will be a drop in the ocean when the app is released worldwide - especially with Alibaba executive chairman Jack Ma seeking a “marriage” between the firms.

Speaking during the Wall Street Journal Digital Live event on Monday, Tim Cook called Apple Pay’s US retail set-back “a skirmish”, adding that the app is already the leader in contactless payments.

Apple Pay has suffered teething problems this week after a consortium of retailers, including Walmart, the biggest supermarket in the world, opted out of near field communication (NFC) payments. This stopped iPhone users from swiping their phones at the outlets' pay terminals.

Instead, the retailers announced they will hold out for the 2015 release of Apple Pay rival, CurrentC, an app which will see consumers scan QR codes to pay for goods.

Referencing pharmaceutical retailers RiteAid and CVS disabling NFC payments earlier this week, Cook said: “We’ve got a lot more merchants to sign up, we’ve got a lot more banks to sign up and we’ve got the rest of the world.

“Merchants have different objectives sometimes but in the long arc of time, you only are relevant as a retailer or merchant if your customers love you.”

During the event, Alibaba chief executive Jack Ma, who is in the US to cement media partnerships for the westward moving Chinese e-commerce giant, said that he hoped Apple and Alibaba could form a “marriage” when asked if the firms could work together on Apple Pay.

Alibaba, which moves more goods than eBay and Amazon combined, has Alipay, a payment service similar to PayPal with 300 million users.

Although it is largely unknown in the west, Alipay is the third biggest payment service in the world, behind only Visa and Mastercard. It would grow substantially on the back of any partnership with the week-old Apple Pay.

Jack Ma will continue his tour of the US in search of commerce partners. He will have considerable capital to invest after it emerged earlier this month that he is China’s richest man with a $25bn fortune.

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