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Another day, another antitrust claim: EU targets Apple Wallet

European Union officials have accused Apple of stifling competition from third-party mobile wallet developers in order to bolster Apple Pay.

It sent a Statement of Objection to the tech giant, together with the European Commission’s preliminary ruling that the company abused its power by restricting third-party mobile wallets from accessing Near-Field Communication (NFC), or “tap and go,” technology on iOS devices for in-store and online transactions, therefore making it impossible for European users to make necessary payments with a mobile wallet other than Apple Pay.

“The Commission takes issue with the decision by Apple to prevent mobile wallet app developers from accessing the necessary hardware and software (‘NFC input’) on its devices, to the benefit of its own solution, Apple Pay,” it wrote.

An iPhone using a tap-and-go payment kiosk.

Margrethe Vestager, executive vice president and chief of competition, released her own statement saying that Apple may have violated the EU’s antitrust laws by blocking its competitors from using NFC software. She said that NFC technology is developed by third-party tech companies and that “tap and go” pay has been made a standard mode of payment in nearly every store throughout Europe. Since third-party mobile companies created NFC technology, they should be able to use it, but because Apple is at the top of the rapidly growing mobile wallet market, Vestager said it has been gatekeeping it for Apple Pay users.

“Apple has built a closed ecosystem around its devices and its operating system, iOS,” Vestager said. “And Apple controls the gates to this ecosystem, setting the rules of the game for anyone who wants to reach consumers using Apple devices. But other app developers depend on the access to this ecosystem to develop innovative mobile wallets.”

The European Commission has been investigating Apple’s alleged competition misconduct involving Apple Pay since June 2020. If the company is found to have violated the region’s antitrust laws, the EU will levy fines.

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