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EU Officially Objects to Apple Limiting Third-Party Access to Apple Pay NFC Capabilities


In line with a report late last week, the European Commission today officially announced that it has issued a Statement of Objections to Apple over its restrictions that prevent third-party services from accessing the NFC capabilities of the iPhone, thereby restricting competition in mobile wallets on iOS.

Apple Pay Feature
The statement is a preliminary view that will need to be confirmed with further investigation before any consequences can be administered, but lays out the direction the investigation is headed.

The European Commission has informed Apple of its preliminary view that it abused its dominant position in markets for mobile wallets on iOS devices. By limiting access to a standard technology used for contactless payments with mobile devices in stores (‘Near-Field Communication (NFC)’ or ‘tap and go’), Apple restricts competition in the mobile wallets market on iOS.

European Commission Executive Vice-President Margrethe Vestager argues that access to NFC is a requirement for viable mobile wallet services at brick-and-mortar locations.

Our concerns relate to Apple’s decision to block access to the NFC technology for payment purposes and use it solely for its own mobile wallet, Apple Pay. As a result, users of Apple devices can only pay with the ‘tap and go’ function using Apple Pay and not with other wallets. This is because competing wallet developpers need access to the NFC on Apple devices to reach Apple users.

Developing a mobile payment application is costly. Investment may only be worth it if developers can reach both Apple and Android customers. Evidence on our file indicates that some developers did not go ahead with their plans as they were not able to to reach iPhone users. This behaviour stifled innovation and prevented competition in the mobile wallet market. As a result, European consumers have little choice of mobile payment solutions when paying in shops.

Vestager mentions that Apple has cited security as its rationale for not allowing third-party access to NFC, but that regulators’ investigation have not found any evidence of that risk.

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