Apple Faces Antitrust Accusations from European Antitrust Investigators

European investigators have issued a statement of objections against Apple over its Apple Pay system.

There are a number of questions surrounding antitrust when it comes to large tech companies. In fact, there are various probes and lawsuits being filed against large tech companies for a number of different reasons. One big source of concern with regards to antitrust concerns revolves around Apple’s payment system, Apple Pay.

Indeed, how Apple Pay is integrated into Apple’s different services definitely is a reason some eyebrows are raised. In the US, for instance, Apple Pay is at the core of the Apple vs Epic lawsuit. The whole reason the game, Fortnite, got kicked out of the Apple app store is because Fortnite offered an alternative way of paying outside of Apple Pay. The lawsuit, despite the seemingly decent outcome of how Apple was ordered to open up how people choose to pay for products, is still ongoing with various states joining in on the side of Epic.

Of course, the US doesn’t share a monopoly on government being concerned with how Apple Pay is integrated into Apple services.

Europe has a number of fronts in the antitrust battles against Apple. Last year, we reported on the European Union moving forward with a probe into how Apple charges for use of their services. Now, Apple is facing another possible antitrust lawsuit over its Apple Pay system. From Yahoo! News:

The Commission says NFC is a standard technology for contactless payments and should be opened to anyone. While third-party developers can take advantage of APIs to read and write NFC tags, they can’t use the NFC antenna in their apps to build Apple Pay competitors.

“Mobile payments play a rapidly growing role in our digital economy. It is important for the integration of European Payments markets that consumers benefit from a competitive and innovative payments landscape,” Executive Vice President of the European Commission Margrethe Vestager said in a statement.

“We have indications that Apple restricted third-party access to key technology necessary to develop rival mobile wallet solutions on Apple’s devices. In our Statement of Objections, we preliminarily found that Apple may have restricted competition, to the benefit of its own solution Apple Pay. If confirmed, such a conduct would be illegal under our competition rules,” she added.

According to Brussels regulators, the main issue is that NFC is available in almost all payments terminals but only Apple Pay can wirelessly communicate with payment terminals via NFC. It’s a standardized, safe and seamless way to pay, which could explain why Apple Pay gained market shares.

Today’s statement of objections is the result of an investigation that was formally opened in June 2020. At the time, the Commission announced it would look at Apple Pay as a whole. Apple Pay can also be used to pay online and in app. But the Commission now says the only issue is the restriction on NFC payments.

The development represents the latest salvo for antitrust regulators taking on the large tech companies. The article goes on to say that Apple has the option to issue a response to the statement of objections. Otherwise, the case is one step closer to making its way into the European court system. Given how Apple is already being sued in the US for anti-competitive behaviour in the US, the last thing they need is another lawsuit in Europe over the same system. It’s one thing to have critics saying that Apple is behaving in an anti-competitive way, but it’s quite another when it is the subject of multiple lawsuits in multiple jurisdictions. It makes the situation look far worse at bare minimum.

Drew Wilson on Twitter: @icecube85 and Facebook.

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