Apple just can’t catch a break in Europe, as its Apple Pay has been declared anti-competitive by the EU. The problem lies with access to the NFC input by other mobile wallet developers.
The EU has slammed Apple with an antitrust allegation regarding its Apple Pay feature. The issue is how Apple prevents competing mobile wallets from accessing the hardware it uses for its own payment system. The body has sent Apple a Statement of Objections alleging the company has abused its dominant position.
The decision states in part, “The Commission takes issue with the decision by Apple to prevent mobile wallets app developers from accessing the necessary hardware and software (‘NFC input’) on its devices, to the benefit of its own solution, Apple Pay. Today’s Statement of Objections takes issue only with the access to NFC input by third-party developers of mobile wallets for payments in stores.”
The EU continues, “In particular, Apple Pay is the only mobile wallet solution that may access the necessary NFC input on iOS. Apple does not make it available to third-party app developers of mobile wallets. The NFC’ tap and go’ technology is embedded on Apple mobile devices for payments in stores. This technology enables communication between a mobile phone and payments terminals in stores. NFC is standardised, available in almost all payment terminals in stores and allows for the safest and most seamless mobile payments. Compared to other solutions, NFC offers a more seamless and more secure payment experience and enjoys wider acceptance in Europe.”
The EU says Apple’s actions have led to fewer innovations in the mobile payment space and reduced choices for consumers.
Executive Vice-President Margrethe Vestager, in charge of competition policy, said: “Mobile payments play a rapidly growing role in our digital economy. It is important for the integration of European Payments markets that consumers benefit from a competitive and innovative payments landscape. We have indications that Apple restricted third-party access to key technology necessary to develop rival mobile wallet solutions on Apple’s devices. In our Statement of Objections, we preliminarily found that Apple may have restricted competition, to the benefit of its own solution Apple Pay. If confirmed, such a conduct would be illegal under our competition rules.”
However, the EU notes that at this point, Apple has not been judged yet, as a Statement of Objection does not constitute a verdict. Also, Apple will get a chance to defend itself against the accusations.
Last year, Apple was accused of forcing rival music streaming platforms to charge a higher cost than its own offering on its devices. If found guilty, the EU can fine Apple up to 10 percent of its global revenue, a hefty $36 billion. It could also compel Apple to change how it conducts business.
The EU has been attempting to curb the powers of big tech companies. It recently passed two pieces of legislation that aim to create an even competing field for smaller and newer companies and make them more responsible for harmful content on their platform.
Apple is also under fire in a handful of countries for its App Store policies, including its home country, where it is appealing a ruling to allow developers put links to external payment in their apps. It would enable the developer to bypass Apple’s famous cut on revenue passing through its App Store.
The Cupertino-based company has objected to any move to change its App Store policy.