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Apple offers to open mobile payment services in the EU

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Jan 19, 2024
Illustration of a phone with a mobile payment icon on the screen, unzipping to show cards and money inside.

Illustration: Gabriella Turrisi/Axios

Apple has offered to allow third-party access to mobile wallet and payment services on its devices in Europe in an effort to allay EU antitrust charges and avoid fines there.

Why it matters: The commitments by Apple would enable developers to use its tap-to-pay features in their own apps and allow consumers to set preferred payment methods that sidestep Apple Pay.

Driving the news: The European Commission is seeking comment from competitors on commitments made by Apple to enable third-party apps to access contactless payments on iOS devices.

Context: The EU kicked off a formal investigation in June 2020 to assess whether Apple's conduct around Apple Pay violated its competition rules.

  • Last May, the EU reached a preliminary finding that Apple had violated its antitrust laws by limiting iPhone's touchless instant payment system to support only Apple's service.

Details: Apple's commitments, which would be in place for 10 years, include offering mobile wallet and payment service providers a set of APIs to access its near-field communications (NFC) functionality on iOS devices for free.

  • It will enable developers to sidestep Apple Pay or Apple Wallet and get equivalent access to its Host Card Emulation (HCE) mode, which securely stores payment credentials and completes transactions using NFC.
  • The iPhone maker agreed to provide additional features, such as setting preferred payment apps and access to biometric authentic methods like FaceID.
  • It also committed to establishing a dispute mechanism under which Apple's decisions to deny NFC access will be reviewed by independent experts.

Threat level: After a comment period, if the EU finds that Apple's offer satisfies its concerns, it could adopt the rules and make them legally binding.

  • If Apple doesn't honor those commitments, it could face a fine of up to 10% of worldwide revenue, without the Commission's having to prove that it broke antitrust rules.

Of note: Earlier this week, Apple updated its App Store guidelines in the U.S., allowing developers to link to alternative payment methods.

  • The new guidelines were released after the U.S. Supreme Court declined to take on the high-profile antitrust case between Epic Games and Apple.
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