By restricting access to the NFC chip on its iOS devices, Apple is reducing consumer choice, the bloc said
On Monday, the EU executive sent a formal statement of objections to Apple regarding Apple Pay, accusing the technology giant of abusing its “dominance in the mobile wallets market for iOS devices.”
Apple Pay is a mobile wallet that uses Near Field Communication (NFC) technology to allow users to pay at on-premises support systems by touching their device. As in other areas of its business, Apple applies a “garden with walls” approach to the software running on its iOS devices, restricting access to the NFC functionality of the iPhone and iPad to all but its own wallet software.
The EC claims that NFC is a standard technology and that by blocking access to competitors, Apple limits the choice to consumers. As such, he says Apple may be in breach of Article 102 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU), which prohibits the abuse of a dominant market position.
In a press release, Margrethe Vestager, executive vice president of the European Commission, said: “Mobile payments are playing a rapidly growing role in our digital economy. It is important for the integration of European payment markets that consumers benefit from a competitive and innovative payment landscape. We have indications that Apple has limited third-party access to key technologies needed to develop competitive mobile wallet solutions for Apple devices. In our Statement of Objections, we have previously established that Apple may have restricted competition in favor of its own Apple Pay solution. If confirmed, such conduct would be illegal under our competition rules. “
Apple responded by saying that restricting access to the NFC chip in its devices was a security measure.
“We created Apple Pay to provide an easy and secure way for consumers to digitally present their existing payment cards and for banks and other financial institutions to offer contactless payments to their customers,” the statement said. “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.
The statement of objections is only a preliminary step in the investigation process and Apple has a chance to review and challenge its findings.
The EU is actively seeking to reduce the dominance of technology giants such as Apple by recently passing the Digital Markets Act (DMA), which, among other measures, contains antitrust provisions that have been strongly lobbied against by mostly US-based giants, including Apple.
Individual members also take their own antitrust action.
The Dutch Consumer and Markets Authority (ACM), which has already fined Apple $ 5 million for 10 consecutive months to restrict dating apps on its platforms, has concluded that the measures announced in late March by the Cupertino-based company for removing some restrictions for application developers “are not enough to comply with European and Dutch regulations”.
These measures have led to a partial easing of restrictions and allow developers to use payment systems in third-party applications, to use external links to register customers. Apple has also made moves to allow other dating apps on its platforms.
However, acknowledging the changes, according to the Dutch news site NOS The ACM says there is still work to be done and is considering how to respond. Additional fines are likely.