Friday, July 19, 2024

Apple Pay antitrust case about to be settled, with 10-year promise

A years-long Apple Pay antitrust investigation is about to be settled, according to a new report this morning.

It says that while there are still ongoing discussions about some of the finer details, the European Union is set to agree to the latest changes proposed by Apple

A quick recap of the Apple Pay antitrust case

When Apple Pay was launched, it relied on a NFC chip in the iPhone, which supports contactless payments. Access to this chip was only allowed by Apple’s own Wallet app, meaning that any banks or finance companies who wanted to support Apple Pay had to do so through the app – which involved giving a small cut of transaction fees to Apple.

This led to complaints of anticompetitive behavior in a number of countries around the world, and the European Union launched an antitrust investigation back in 2019.

Pressure increased in 2020 when the pandemic saw a significant increase in contactless payments, with Apple Pay heading towards 10% of all transactions. That same percentage could have come into play in terms of punishment, with the EU able to fine Apple up to 10% of its global turnover.

In 2022, the EU announced a preliminary view that Apple was indeed guilty of antitrust violations by limiting access to the NFC chip. The following year, Apple agreed to open up access to bank and card company apps. Since then, the two parties have been hammering out the details.

Case about to be settled, with 10-year promise

The Financial Times reports that the two sides are now rapidly closing in on an agreement.

Three people familiar with the matter said that regulators had accepted a number of measures that Apple had committed to in January this year.

These include providing developers with free access to its NFC technology on iOS devices and without having to use Apple Pay or Apple Wallet. Brussels officials have been testing these measures, which Apple has offered to keep in place for a decade.

Apple declined to comment specifically, but repeated its earlier statement that it has “offered commitments to provide third-party developers in the European Economic Area with an option that will enable their users to make NFC contactless payments from within their iOS apps, separate from Apple Pay and Apple Wallet.”

9to5Mac’s Take

While the report says that the EU’s acceptance of Apple’s proposals isn’t yet certain, it would be extremely surprising for things to fall apart at this late stage. The company had already accepted the principle, so all that remained was agreeing the small-print.

The 10-year limit on the agreement almost certainly came from Apple’s side, with the company likely arguing that the mobile payment landscape will have shifted dramatically by then, so it wouldn’t make sense to commit to anything beyond this time-frame.

The iPhone maker also made a surprise announcement yesterday that it was withdrawing its Apple Pay Later scheme, with antitrust concerns a potential explanation for this decision.

Photo by Christiann Koepke on Unsplash

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