Commission sends Statement of Objections to Apple regarding practices relating to Apple Pay

The European Commission has informed Apple that it believes, on a preliminary basis, that the company is abusing its dominant position in the markets for mobile wallets on iOS devices. By limiting access to standard technology for making in-store contactless payments using mobile devices “Near Field Communication (NFC)” or “tap and go), Apple restricts competition in the market for mobile wallets on iOS.

The Commission is challenging Apple’s decision to block mobile wallet app developers from accessing necessary hardware and software (“NFC input”) on its devices, in favor of its proprietary solution, Apple Pay.

Mme Margrethe VestagerExecutive Vice President, Competition Policy, said the following: “Mobile payments are playing an increasingly important role in our digital economy. For the integration of European payments markets, it is essential that consumers benefit from a competitive and innovative payments landscape We have evidence that Apple has restricted third party access to key technology needed to develop competing mobile wallet solutions on Apple devices. In our statement of objections, we considered, on a preliminary basis, that Apple may have restricted competition, to the benefit of Apple Pay, its proprietary solution. If confirmed, such behavior would be illegal under our competition rules.”

Statement of Objections on Apple’s Access Restrictions to Mobile Payments Technology

Apple Pay is Apple’s proprietary mobile wallet solution, offered on iPhones and iPads. It enables mobile payments in physical and online stores. Apple’s iPhones, iPads, and software form a “closed ecosystem,” in which Apple controls every aspect of the user experience, including mobile wallet developers’ access to said ecosystem.

The Commission takes the preliminary view that Apple has significant market power in smart mobile devices and a dominant position in mobile wallet markets.

Most notably, Apple Pay is the only mobile wallet solution to have access to the necessary NFC input on iOS. Apple does not make it available to third-party mobile wallet app developers. NFC technology “tap and gois integrated into Apple’s mobile devices for in-store payments. This technology allows communication between a mobile phone and payment terminals in stores. NFC technology is standardized, available in almost all in-store payment terminals and guarantees maximum security and fluidity for mobile payments. Compared to other solutions, NFC technology offers a smoother and more secure payment experience, and enjoys wider acceptance in Europe.

The Commission finds on a preliminary basis that Apple’s dominant position in the market for mobile wallets on its iOS operating system restricts competition, by restricting access to NFC technology to Apple Pay. Such a situation produces crowding out effects for its competitors, weakens innovation and restricts consumer choice when it comes to mobile wallets on iPhones. If confirmed, this behavior would be contrary to Article 102 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (‘TFEU’), which prohibits the abuse of a dominant market position.

The sending of a statement of objections does not prejudge the outcome of an investigation.

The Statement of Objections presented today only addresses the restricted access of third-party developers of mobile wallets to NFC input for in-store payments. In this communication, the Commission does not return to the online restrictions or denials of access to Apple Pay that certain specific products of competitors would suffer, about which the Commission expressed its concerns when it opened the in-depth investigation into Apple’s practices regarding Apple Pay on June 16, 2020.

context

Article 102 TFEU prohibits abuse of a dominant position. The implementation of these provisions is set out in the Antitrust Regulation (Council Regulation No 1/2003), which may also be enforced by national competition authorities.

The Statement of Objections is a formal step in the Commission’s investigations into alleged breaches of EU antitrust rules. The Commission informs the parties concerned in writing of the objections raised against them. The undertakings concerned may examine the documents in the Commission’s file, reply in writing and request a hearing in order to present their observations on the case to representatives of the Commission and the national competition authorities. The sending of a statement of objections and the opening of a formal investigation into anti-competitive practices do not prejudge the outcome of the investigations.

No legal deadline is provided for the closure of an investigation into anti-competitive practices. The duration of this type of investigation depends on various elements, including the complexity of the case, the degree of cooperation of the companies involved with the Commission and the exercise of the rights of defence.

For more information

Further information on this investigation is available under number AT.40452 in the public register of competition cases on the Commission’s competition website. News about cartels and other anti-competitive practices are periodically published in the Competition Weekly e-News.

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