Dutch Competition Probe Into Payment Apps Centers On Apple Pay

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Dutch antitrust regulators have launched an investigation into freedom of choice regarding payment apps and is eyeing Apple Pay’s limitations, Bloomberg reported.

The Netherlands Authority for Consumers and Markets (ACM) is homing in on contactless payments that can access near-field communication (NFC), which enables users to pay for goods and services by waving their phones across terminals. Although the antitrust regulator didn’t mention Apple by name, it said in a press release on Friday (Dec. 4) that “the software on some smartphones only allows the software developer’s own payment app to connect to NFC communication.”

Currently, iPhone and Apple Watch users have no choice but to use Apple Pay for NFC payments, a situation that has sparked complaints from banks and other rivals in the payments landscape, according to Bloomberg. Apple has denied any outside access to the chip.

The ACM said it will “investigate whether limiting the payment apps’ access to NFC communication reduces the users’ freedom of choice.” A violation could result in a fine or some other penalty. There is also a concern that payment app innovation could be stifled.

“Through enforcement actions, market studies and education, ACM aims to keep the benefits of innovation in the digital economy, and to ensure that markets work well for people and businesses, now and in the future,” the ACM said.

While Apple declined to comment directly on the investigation, a spokesperson told Bloomberg that Apple Pay was created as a “simple and secure way for customers to use the payment card of their choice on their Apple devices.” The spokesperson added that Apple has been “working with banks, FinTechs and merchants to be the best payment option for businesses and consumers across the Netherlands.”

The European Union is also investigating Apple for possible antitrust violations regarding Apple Pay and the App Store. The main concern is Apple’s proprietary in-app purchase system (IAP).

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