Apple Pay is more than ever in the sights of Brussels. On Monday, following a preliminary investigation, the European Commission accused Apple of abusing its dominant position in the markets for mobile wallets on iOS devices.
In a decision expected by many mobile payment players, the Apple firm is criticized for limiting access to the “Near Field Communication” chip (NFC, also called “tap and go”) of iPhones to other applications of payment.
By reserving access to this technology “standardized, available in almost all in-store payment terminals” and guaranteeing “maximum security and fluidity” to its proprietary solution, Apple Pay, the American giant would prevent the emergence of any competition.
“Such a situation creates crowding out effects for competitors, weakens innovation and restricts consumer choice when it comes to mobile wallets on iPhones. For the purposes of the integration of European payments markets, it is essential that consumers benefit from a competitive and innovative payments landscape”, insists Margrethe Vestager, Commissioner for Competition.
In France, for example, the impossibility of accessing the NFC antenna of iPhones is one of the reasons put forward to explain the difficulties of Paylib, the tool launched by several large banks, to take off in in-store payment by smartphone. .
Apple now has access to the file and will be able to respond to the charges. If the company is found guilty, it will have to remedy its practices or face fines of up to 10% of its annual turnover.
Reopen the market
The deal is part of a wider effort by Europe to open up the market for mobile payments. In terms of competition law, Apple Pay also remains subject to other potential grievances, which are still under investigation. But it is from the regulatory aspect that Europe’s greatest offensive comes.
The “Digital Market Act” (DMA), the new anti-Gafam weapon adopted in March and whose entry into force is aimed at in 2024, indicates that the Internet giants will have to “allow application developers to access fair conditions to the auxiliary functionalities of smartphones”, including NFC chips. The DMA must give national and European authorities the means to act faster and stronger in the event of non-compliance.
Beyond NFC, the text, by its very transversal nature, must reopen the game of competition to the entire payment ecosystem, such as for example split payment applications (Buy Now, Pay Later or BNPL) , a booming segment where many fear that Apple will try again to impose its own solution, integrated with Apple Pay.
In response, Apple justifies the access restrictions by its concern to ensure security for its customers and indicates that “pple Pay is only one of the many options offered to European consumers for making payments”. Naturally, the apple brand indicates that “we will continue to work with the Commission to ensure that European consumers have access to the payment option of their choice in a safe and secure environment”. Naturally, Brussels is skeptical.