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Following a years long investigation by the European Commission as to whether Apple is being uncompetitive in the realm of NFC payments, the tech giant has offered up some concessions.
January 19, 2024
The concessions would essentially allow third party mobile wallet apps can use Apple’s NFC functionality on iOS devices, meaning other services as well as Apple Pay could be used.
The Commission opened a formal antitrust investigation in 2020 to asses whether Apple’s ‘conduct’ – i.e. not allowing third party pay apps on iOS – violates EU competition rules.
Two years later, it declared its preliminary view that Apple ‘abused its dominant position in markets for mobile wallets on iOS devices’, by limiting access by third-party developers of mobile wallets to the NFC input. “Such exclusionary conduct may restrict competition in the market for mobile wallets on iOS devices, in breach of Article 102 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union,” says the commission.
In response it seems Apple has offered to open up the platform by allowing third-party mobile wallet and payment service providers to access the NFC functionality through a set of APIs on iOS devices free of charge – without having to use Apple Pay or Apple Wallet.
According to the statement: “Apple would create the necessary APIs to allow equivalent access to the NFC components in the so-called Host Card Emulation (‘HCE') mode, a technology issued to securely store payment credentials and complete transactions using NFC, without relying on an in-device secure element.”
It will provide additional features and functionalities, such as defaulting of preferred payment apps, access to authentication features such as FaceID and a ‘suppression mechanism.’ It also promised to “apply fair, objective, transparent, and non-discriminatory eligibility criteria to grant NFC access to third-party mobile wallet app developers, who will have to conclude an ADP license agreement to have access.”
It's only relevant for the European Economic area, which stands to reason since it’s the EC kicking up a stink, and a ‘dispute settlement mechanism’ will be established under which any decision to deny access to the NFC input will be reviewed by independent experts.
It’s now for whoever would like to have a say on all this to feedback to the EC, whose lawyers will have to ultimately decide if they are adequate concessions to the initial complaints.
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