Apple opens access to NFC technology, avoids EU antitrust control – Euractiv

The European Commission on Thursday (July 11) legally obliged Apple to honour the commitments, responding to earlier competition concerns about its refusal to give rivals access to its contactless payment technology, NFC.

Because the Commission has decided to legally bind Apple to these commitments, which would open up this ecosystem to competitors, the company is for now avoiding further antitrust scrutiny in this area.

The case involves Near-Field Communication (NFC), the technology used for most smartphone payments. Apple devices use Apple Pay by default for NFC payments.

This gives Apple a dominant position in the mobile wallet market on iOS. The company did not allow third-party developers to access NFC components, which the Commission found to be an abuse of its dominant position under the DMA, according to a press release on Thursday.

In January, EU officials said Apple had committed to addressing competition issues.

If a company fails to fulfil its legally binding obligations, the Commission can impose a fine of up to 10% of its annual turnover or a daily penalty of 5% of its daily turnover for failure to fulfil its obligations.

The Commission said Apple’s updated commitments include allowing third-party wallet providers to freely access NFC technology on iOS devices via Host Card Emulation (HCE), which securely stores payment credentials for transactions.

“Apple Pay and Apple Wallet services will continue to be available to users and developers in the European Economic Area (EEA),” an Apple representative told Euractiv after the announcement.

European Commission asks for opinion on Apple Pay commitments

The European Commission announced on Friday (19 January) Apple’s commitments to enable third-party payments and invited comments on them amid competition concerns related to limited access to contactless payment technology on mobile devices.

Apple’s Commitments

According to the EU executive, between 19 January and 19 February, the Commission examined Apple’s commitments and consulted third parties for advice, on the basis of which the company updated its earlier commitments.

“Many banks, app developers, card issuers and financial associations have sent us their feedback,” Margrethe Vestager, executive vice-president and commissioner for competition at the Commission, said at a briefing on Thursday.

The tech giant has committed to a fair and transparent NFC access granting process, allowing users to easily set HCE payment apps as default and use related features such as Field Detect and authentication tools.

Apple has also set up a system to oversee compliance with NFC access obligations within the European Economic Area and to resolve any disputes.

The company has expanded NFC payment options with certified terminals, enabled developers to freely integrate NFC features without a license, simplified setting default payment apps, and streamlined dispute resolution with improved monitoring.

Due to its key position, Apple acts as a competition guardian under the EU’s digital competition regulation, the Digital Markets Act (DMA).

Among other things, the DMA mandates that guards allow interoperability with their hardware and software, including NFC technology. The decision also addresses those practices, Vestager said Thursday.

However, she noted that the monitoring and dispute resolution mechanisms to which Apple has also committed go “above and beyond what the DMA requires.”

(Editing: Eliza Gkritsi/Alice Taylor)

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