Apple to let rivals use contactless payments, avoiding EU antitrust fine

By Foo Yun Chee

BRUSSELS (Reuters) – Apple will open up its tap-and-go mobile payments system to rivals, EU antitrust regulators said on Thursday, ending a four-year investigation that could have resulted in a hefty fine for the iPhone maker.

Apple’s decision to end an EU antitrust investigation marks a rare move by a company that has defied the EU’s competition watchdog investigating its business practices. The company currently faces three investigations under the Digital Markets Act (DMA) into its business practices.

The European Commission, which acts as the EU’s antitrust enforcer, said Apple’s offer would be valid for 10 years. More than 3,000 banks and issuers in Europe offer Apple Pay.

“From now on, competitors will be able to effectively compete with Apple Pay for mobile payments with iPhone in stores. This will give consumers a wider choice of safe and innovative mobile wallets,” said Margrethe Vestager, head of the EU’s antitrust authority.

Apple’s tap-and-go technology, called near-field communication, or NFC, enables contactless payments using mobile wallets. Now, it will give developers access to NFC to pre-build payment apps for competing mobile service providers.

Apple said its offering will enable European developers to enable contactless payments for car keys, closed-loop public transport, corporate IDs, house keys, hotel keys, retailer loyalty/rewards programs and event tickets from within iOS apps.

The European Union’s antitrust watchdog two years ago accused Apple of hampering competition in its Apple Pay mobile wallet by blocking rival app developers from using its contactless payment technology.

In January, the company proposed a settlement that would have avoided a fine and a finding of wrongdoing.

In March, Apple was fined €1.84 billion, the first antitrust fine imposed on it in the EU, for blocking competition from Spotify and other music streaming rivals by introducing restrictions on the App Store.

(This story has been resubmitted to correct a typo in the title)

(Reporting by Foo Yun Chee; Editing by Arun Koyyur)