The European Commission has published the conclusions of a preliminary investigation into Apple Pay, the mobile payment solution it launched in 2020. It accuses Apple of abusing its dominant position and blocking competition, by preventing other contactless payment applications from accessing iPhone NFC technology.
NFC technology available only to Apple Pay on iPhones
Since September 2014, the Apple Pay solution has enabled users to pay for contactless purchases with their iPhone. Android smartphone owners, meanwhile, can use other payment solutions, such as Google Pay or Android Pay.
Apple Pay is based on the NFC (Near Field Communication) technology found on iPhones. However, this function can only be used by Apple's solution, which restricts access to all third-party applications.
For the European Commission, this is an anti-competitive practice that banks have been denouncing for several years. Indeed, it is impossible to deploy Paylib, a solution developed by several French banking groups, on iPhones.
But iPhones account for a significant share of the market, and Apple smartphone users make more use of mobile payment than others, spending more than the average.
Apple "abuses its dominant position" according to Brussels
The European Commission, at the end of a preliminary investigation opened in June 2020, officially accuses Apple of blocking competition. In a press release dated May 2, 2022, Brussels considers that Apple is " abusing its dominant position on the digital wallet market ".
" Apple's dominant position on the market for mobile wallets on its iOS operating system restricts competition, by reserving access to NFC technology for Apple Pay. Such a situation produces foreclosure effects for its competitors, weakens innovation and restricts consumer choice with regard to mobile wallets on the iPhone," states the European Commission in the same press release.
If Apple, which now has access to the file, is found guilty, it will have only two options: put an end to its anti-competitive practices, or pay fines of up to 10% of its annual sales.
Beyond the Apple affair, European institutions are committed to opening up the mobile payments market. At the end of March, they adopted new legislation, the Digital Markets Act (DMA), which aims to regulate the GAFAMs.
Once the DMA comes into force, normally in 2024, GAFAMs will have to " allow application developers fair access to ancillary smartphone functionalities ", which includes in particular the NFC technology used for mobile payment, as stated in a European Council press release.
In response, Apple put forward the usual data protection argument, claiming to be concerned that DMA would create " unnecessary privacy and security vulnerabilities for our users ". The firm thus implies that only Apple Pay would be sufficiently secure, justifying the restrictions imposed on other applications.