EU regulators say Apple broke competition law by blocking fintechs from building ‘mobile wallets’

By Oliver Smith on Tuesday 3 May 2022

Digital Banking

Apple is charged with boosting its own Apple Pay service at the expense of competition.

EU regulators say Apple broke competition law by blocking fintechs from building ‘mobile wallets’
Image source: CardMapr/Unsplash.

The European Commission (EC) has charged Apple with breaking EU competition law in the way it has restricted access to contactless payments.

Essentially the EC’s allegation is that by limiting developers from accessing the iPhone’s NFC chip to build rival ‘mobile wallets’, Apple unfairly benefitted its own Apple Pay service.

“We have indications that Apple restricted third-party access to key technology necessary to develop rival mobile wallet solutions on Apple's devices,” said the EC’s executive vice-president Margrethe Vestager, who’s in charge of competition policy.

“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.”

If found illegal and upheld, Apple could face fines worth up to 10 per cent of its global revenues.

Back when Apple Pay launched in 2014 along with the iPhone 6, the first Apple smartphone to include an NFC chip capable of contactless payments, there was much speculation that the iPhone-maker would soon open up access to developers.

However, now eight years later, little access has been granted and the only ‘mobile wallet’ on iPhone remains Apple’s own solution.

In 2017 Apple gave developers the ability to read NFC tags using the iPhone’s hardware, and earlier this year it extended this to include reading payment cards turning an iPhone into a point-of-sale terminal.

“Apple Pay is only one of many options available to European consumers for making payments, and has ensured equal access to NFC while setting industry-leading standards for privacy and security,” an Apple spokesperson said. 

“We will continue to engage with the commission to ensure European consumers have access to the payment option of their choice in a safe and secure environment.”

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