THE EUROPEAN UNION has stepped up its antitrust case against Apple, accusing the company of abusing its dominant position by limiting access to technologies that enable contactless payment.
The executive arm of the 27-nation bloc, the European Commission, has been investigating Apple since 2020.
The commission’s preliminary opinion is that the company is restricting competition by preventing mobile wallet app developers from accessing necessary hardware and software on Apple devices.
Mobile wallets are based on near field communication, or NFC, which uses a chip in the mobile device to communicate wirelessly with a merchant’s payment terminal.
The commission said Apple Pay is by far the largest NFC-based mobile wallet on the market and accused the company of denying others access to the popular technology.
“Apple has built a closed ecosystem around its devices and its operating system, iOS, and Apple controls the gates of this ecosystem, setting the rules of the game for anyone who wants to reach consumers using Apple devices,” said the competition commissioner. of the EU, Margrethe Vestager. .
“By excluding others from the game, Apple has unfairly protected its Apple Pay wallets from the competition.”
The commission did not say how big the fines could be if the charges against Apple are finally upheld.
Apple said in a statement that it “will continue to work with the Commission to ensure that European consumers have access to the payment option of their choice in a secure environment.”
The commission said the practice “has a foreclosure effect on competitors and leads to less innovation and fewer choices for consumers of mobile wallets on iPhones.”
It said it had sent a statement of objections to Apple over its practices, a formal step in its investigations into alleged violations of EU antitrust rules.
The case is one of several investigations opened by the EU against Apple.
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EU regulators are also investigating whether the company has been breaking the bloc’s antitrust laws by distorting competition for streaming music by imposing unfair rules on rival services on its App Store.
The commission said that Apple Pay is the only mobile wallet solution that can access the necessary NFC input on iOS and blamed Apple for not making it available to third-party app developers.
Apple said its digital wallet service “is just one of many options available to European consumers for making payments, and has ensured equal access to NFC while setting industry-leading standards for privacy and security.”
Vestager said the EU takes security concerns very seriously, but insisted the bloc’s investigation revealed no evidence that security risks would increase if access was granted to third parties.
“To the contrary, the evidence in our file indicates that Apple’s conduct cannot be justified by security concerns,” he said.