Apple Pay: EU accuses Apple of abusing dominant position

The European Commission has accused Apple of restricting rivals’ access to the technology behind its mobile payment system Apple Pay, as it steps up its investigations into suspected violations of EU antitrust rules.

The EU’s executive arm said on Monday it had sent a charge sheet known as a statement of objections to Apple, detailing how the company had abused its dominant position in markets for mobile wallets on iOS devices. 

The antitrust case could result in a hefty fine for the iPhone maker and force it to open its near-field communication (NFC) chip technology to competitors.

The Commission’s preliminary view is that Apple is restricting competition by preventing mobile wallet app developers from accessing the necessary hardware and software on its devices.

It said the practice “has an exclusionary effect on competitors and leads to less innovation and less choice for consumers for mobile wallets on iPhones.”

“We have indications that Apple restricted third-party access to key technology necessary to develop rival mobile wallet solutions on Apple’s devices,” EU antitrust chief Margrethe Vestager said in a statement.

“In our statement of objections, we preliminarily found that Apple may have restricted competition, to the benefit of its own solution Apple Pay,” she said.

The case is one of several investigations opened against Apple by EU regulators. 

They are also looking into whether the company has been violating the bloc’s antitrust laws by distorting competition for music streaming by imposing unfair rules for rival services in its App Store.

Apple said it would continue to engage with the Commission.

“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,” the company said in a statement.

Why is the EU criticising Apple Pay?

Apple Pay is Apple’s own mobile wallet solution on iPhones and iPads, used to enable mobile payments in physical stores and online. 

Its NFC “tap and go” technology is embedded on Apple mobile devices for payments in stores, allowing communication between a mobile phone and payments terminals in stores. 

The Commission accuses Apple of restricting third-party access to this technology, to the benefit of its own solution.

“The Commission’s preliminary view is that Apple’s dominant position in the market for mobile wallets on its operating system iOS, restricts competition, by reserving access to NFC technology to Apple Pay,” it said in a statement.

“If confirmed, such a conduct would be illegal under our competition rules,” Vestager said.

Apple did not immediately respond to a Euronews request for comment.

The Commission added that its statement of objections does not predjuge the outcome of an investigation.

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