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Brussels opens antitrust probe into Apple Pay

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Brussels opens antitrust probe into Apple Pay

Mobile payment

(BRUSSELS) - The European Commission opened a formal antitrust investigation Tuesday to assess whether Apple's conduct in connection with Apple Pay, such as its terms and conditions, violates EU competition rules.

The investigation concerns Apple's terms, conditions and other measures for integrating Apple Pay in merchant apps and websites on iPhones and iPads, Apple's limitation of access to the Near Field Communication (NFC) functionality ("tap and go") on iPhones for payments in stores, and alleged refusals of access to Apple Pay.

The investigation concerns the above conducts of Apple in the European Economic Area (EEA).

Mobile payment solutions have been rapidly gaining acceptance among mobile phone users, accelerated by the coronavirus crisis, leading to increasing online payments and contactless payments in stores.

"It appears that Apple sets the conditions on how Apple Pay should be used in merchants' apps and websites," said the EC's executive vice-president Margrethe Vestager, in charge of competition policy: "It also reserves the "tap and go" functionality of iPhones to Apple Pay. It is important that Apple's measures do not deny consumers the benefits of new payment technologies, including better choice, quality, innovation and competitive prices. I have therefore decided to take a close look at Apple's practices regarding Apple Pay and their impact on competition."

Apple Pay is Apple's proprietary mobile payment solution on iPhones and iPads, used to enable payments in merchant apps and websites as well as in physical stores.

Following a preliminary investigation, the Commission says it has concerns that Apple's terms, conditions, and other measures related to the integration of Apple Pay for the purchase of goods and services on merchant apps and websites on iOS/iPadOS devices may distort competition and reduce choice and innovation.

In addition, Apple Pay is the only mobile payment solution that may access the NFC "tap and go" technology embedded on iOS mobile devices for payments in stores. The investigation will also focus on alleged restrictions of access to Apple Pay for specific products of rivals on iOS and iPadOS smart mobile devices.

The Commission will now investigate the possible impact of Apple's practices on competition in providing mobile payments solutions.

If proven, the practices under investigation may breach EU competition rules on anticompetitive agreements between companies (Article 101 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU)) and/or on the abuse of a dominant position (Articles 102 TFEU).

While the EU executive will carry out an in-depth investigation as a matter of priority, it stresses that the opening of a formal investigation does not prejudge its outcome.

In parallel, the Commission has opened also formal antitrust investigations to assess whether Apple's rules for app developers on the distribution of apps via the App Store violate EU competition rules.

More information on the investigation will be available on the Commission's competition website, in the public case register under case number AT.40452 (Apple – Mobile Payments – Apple Pay).

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