Daily Dash: Apple Set For New Apple Pay Antitrust Case

October 2, 2023
Apple is expected to face an antitrust class action lawsuit related to iPhone near-field communication technology, a UK regulator has set out its financial inclusion ambitions, and Mastercard fingerprint payments have gone live with Mercedes pay+.

Apple Must Face US Tap-To-Pay Suit

A California court has said that it will hear an antitrust case accusing Apple of illegally restricting the use of near-field communication (NFC) technology on its phones.

In July last year, as reported by Vixio, a group of card issuers sued the iPhone maker alleging that they pay “supracompetitive” issuer-transaction fees on purchases made with Apple Pay because Apple prohibits rival mobile wallets from using the NFC chip on its devices.

The complaint claimed that Apple unlawfully tied Apple Pay to its iPhones and other devices and established a monopoly via the restriction and not by offering a better product. 

Apple allows the use of NFC for services other than payments, for example, for scanning a toy to connect it with a video game, and Google makes its NFC technology available to competing wallets such as Samsung Pay.

The card issuers also claimed anti-competitive harm due to the excessive fees Apple charged when its wallet was used to pay.

Apple asked the court to dismiss the claim but the judge said the plaintiffs “plausibly alleged” attempted anti-competitive monopolisation and that Apple Pay charges “arbitrary and inflated” fees to issuers.

At the same time, the court denied the move ahead with a tying claim, agreeing with Apple that the purchase of iOS devices is not conditional on the use of Apple Pay

“There is no tie because iOS device consumers are not required to use Apple Pay and because Apple Pay is free to consumers,” according to the document seen by Vixio.

Regulators have crossed swords with Apple over the bigtech’s restriction of NFC technology several times in recent years.

The US Department of Commerce raised serious concerns about the NFC restrictions in February, which was followed by further warnings from the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) in September.

Apple is also subject to antitrust scrutiny in the EU, which preliminarily found in May 2022 that the NFC restrictions breach the law.

It Is Time For An 'Enlightenment' On Financial Inclusion, Says UK Regulator

Nikhil Rathi, CEO of the UK Financial Conduct Authority (FCA), has delivered a speech setting out the regulator’s aims for financial inclusion. 

“Financial inclusion matters to the FCA, deeply,” said Rathi, despite agreeing with the government’s decision not to make it a statutory obligation for the regulator. 

Among the issues raised by Rathi was the unbanked, who he referred to as the “ultimate example” of financial exclusion.

“We will be doing more to understand what barriers remain in place for these people, including why over half of those without accounts say they don’t want or need them, and how to bridge what clearly points to a service and trust gap,” said Rathi.

He added that the FCA will look at whether the processes for accessing basic bank accounts are working as they should be.

Rathi also said that the regulator “stands ready” to regulate buy now, pay later (BNPL) services. 

“The rise in the appeal of BNPL products and payday loans is unsurprising,” he said. 

Without new legislation from the government, Rathi said the FCA has instead focused on resolving unfair and unclear terms in the contracts of BNPL firms such as Klarna and Clearpay. 

Mastercard Fingerprint Payments Go Live With Mercedes Pay+

Mercedes-Benz has partnered with Mastercard to introduce embedded in-car payments at the point of sale (POS).

In Germany, where the feature is now live, customers can use an in-car fingerprint sensor to make payments at more than 3,600 service stations in Germany.

Mercedes-Benz is the world's first automaker to integrate Mastercard Secure Card on File for Commerce Platforms technology for online payments into its vehicles.

This is in addition to Visa’s Delegated Authentication and the Visa Cloud Token Framework, which has been live on Mercedes pay+ since the service was launched in Germany in March this year.

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