Brussels regulators have accused Apple of violating EU competition law by abusing its dominant position in mobile payments to restrict rivals’ access to contactless technology.
Antitrust investigators are concerned that the U.S. technology group is preventing competitors from accessing “tap and go” chips or near-field communications (NFCs) for the benefit of its own Apple Pay system, the European Commission said in a statement Monday.
Margrethe Vestager, the EU’s executive vice president in charge of competition policy, said Brussels had “indications that Apple was restricting third-party access to key technologies needed to develop rival mobile wallet solutions on Apple devices”.
She added that the commission “had so far found out that Apple may have restricted competition in favor of its own solution Apple Pay”.
If confirmed, “such conduct would be unlawful under our competition rules,” Vestager said. The company could face fines of up to 10 percent of global revenue if the charges are upheld.
The EU accusation is the latest in a series of antitrust investigations opened against the technology giant in Brussels. Apple is also facing scrutiny of how it could be to the detriment of competitors in the App Store by charging 30 percent of some subscription fees, while denying some services the ability to tell users that there are other ways to upgrade. This case was opened after the music streaming service Spotify complained to the commission more than two years ago.
The new allegations come after Brussels approved two landmark legislation, including the Digital Markets Act, which aims to limit the power of large technology groups.
In its preliminary findings in the recent case, Brussels said it believed that Apple “enjoys significant market power in the market for smart mobile devices and a dominant position in the mobile wallet markets”.
The results of the survey added: “Apple Pay is the only mobile wallet solution that can access the required NFC input on iOS. Apple does not make it available to third-party app developers of mobile wallets. NFC ‘tap and go’ – the technology is embedded in Apple’s mobile devices for in-store payments. “
Apple said: “We have designed Apple Pay to provide users with an easy and secure way to present their existing payment cards digitally, and for banks and other financial institutions to offer contactless payments to their customers. Apple Pay is just one of many options, available to European consumers to make payments, and has ensured equal access to NFC, while setting industry-leading standards for privacy and security.
“We will continue to engage with the Commission to ensure that European consumers have access to the payment option of their choice in a safe and secure environment.”
Vestager said: “Mobile payments are playing a rapidly growing role in our digital economy. It is important for the integration of European payment markets that consumers benefit from a competitive and innovative payment landscape.”