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Contactless payments: Apple in the sights of Brussels


Lthe European Commission on Monday, April 2, accused the American giant Apple of blocking competition in contactless payment systems, by imposing its Apple Pay service on users of its mobile phones. The European executive considered that the iPhone manufacturer was “abusing its dominant position in the mobile wallet markets” by preventing competing solutions from working on its devices, according to a statement.

Brussels, which plays the role of guardian of competition in the European Union, had already pinned Apple last year for anti-competitive practices in the online music market, one of several cases that have pitted it against American tech giants. Regarding Apple Pay, the Commission had opened an investigation in June 2020. On Monday, she informed Apple in writing of the grievances against her. This is a formal step that does not prejudge the outcome of this investigation. The company now has access to the file and will be able to respond to the accusations made.

“We have evidence that Apple has restricted third-party access to key technology needed to develop competing mobile wallet solutions on Apple devices […] for the benefit of Apple Pay, its proprietary solution,” Competition Commissioner Margrethe Vestager said at a press conference. Launched in 2014, this service allows holders of Apple-branded devices to make payments in stores by simply approaching their device to the terminals used for credit cards.

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Possible heavy fines ahead

Apple Pay is the only mobile wallet solution to have access to NFC (Near Field Communication) technology equipping iPhones or iPads to exchange the data necessary for contactless payment in stores or online, the Commission emphasizes. Brussels “disputes Apple’s decision to prevent developers of “competing” applications from accessing the necessary hardware and software on its devices”.

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For its part, Apple justifies the access restrictions by its concern to ensure security for its customers. “Apple Pay is just one of the many options available to European consumers to make payments,” the brand reacted to the apple, in a statement. “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,” she added.

No deadline has been set for the EU investigation to continue. If Apple is found guilty, it will have to remedy its practices or face fines of up to 10% of its annual revenue.

“Apple has built a closed ecosystem around its devices”

“We have evidence that Apple has restricted third-party access to key technology needed to develop competing mobile wallet solutions on Apple devices […] for the benefit of Apple Pay,” Competition Commissioner Margrethe Vestager said at a press conference. “Apple has built a closed ecosystem around its iOS devices and operating system. Apple controls the doors of this ecosystem, setting the rules of the game for anyone who wants to reach “its users, a Margrethe Vestager.

The Californian group is also one of the main targets of the new European regulation on digital markets (“Digital Markets Act”, DMA), finalized at the end of March, which aims to prevent the giants of the sector from ousting smaller players by unfair methods.


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