Apple To Open Up NFC Access To Competitors

January 22, 2024
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The European Commission has said it is seeking feedback on new commitments from Apple to open up access to its near-field communication (NFC) technology, following a four-year antitrust case.

The European Commission has said it is seeking feedback on new commitments from Apple to open up access to its near-field communication (NFC) technology, following a four-year antitrust case. 

Apple has said that it will allow third-party mobile wallet and payment service providers (PSPs) to access its NFC functionality, in a bid to address the commission's competition concerns. 

This will be enabled through a set of application programming interfaces (APIs) and will be free of charge, without having to use Apple Pay or Apple Wallet. 

The NFC technology enables communication between a mobile device and payment terminals, and triggered concern in Brussels.

On June 16, 2020, the European Commission opened a formal antitrust investigation to assess whether Apple's conduct in connection with Apple Pay violates EU competition rules.

Then on May 2, 2022, the commission sent a statement of objections informing the technology giant of its preliminary view that it had abused its dominant position in markets for mobile wallets on iOS devices. 

This was because it was preventing access by third-party developers of mobile wallets to the NFC input used for contactless payments with mobile devices in stores.

The commission said that this was in breach of Article 102 of the Treaty of the Functioning of the European Union, which prohibits the abuse of a dominant position that may affect trade within the EU and prevent or restrict competition. 

Opening up the NFC

To enable access, Apple will create the necessary APIs to allow equivalent access to the NFC components in the so-called Host Card Emulation (HCE) mode. 

This is technology issued to securely store payment credentials and complete transactions using NFC, without relying on an in-device secure element.

Apple has also said that it will apply the commitments to all third-party mobile wallet app developers established in the European Economic Area and all iOS users with an Apple ID registered in the EEA. 

Apple, meanwhile, will not prevent the use of these apps for payments in stores outside the EEA.

The tech company — whose EU headquarters is in Cork, Ireland — will also provide additional features and functionalities, including defaulting of preferred payment apps, access to authentication features such as FaceID and a suppression mechanism.

Further, it will apply fair, objective, transparent and non-discriminatory eligibility criteria to grant NFC access to third-party mobile wallet app developers, who will have to conclude an automatic data processing (ADP) licence agreement to have access.

Apple has also said that it will establish a dispute settlement mechanism under which Apple's decisions denying access to NFC input will be reviewed by independent experts.

The company has now committed to keeping this in place for at least ten years. 

Meanwhile, the European Commission has said that it is looking for input on the topic, which will need to be submitted within the next month. 

Apple had not responded to a request for comment at the time of publication. 

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