As the European Commission continues to look into whether Apple has abused its market dominance by restricting mobile payments on iOS devices, Executive Vice-President Margrethe Vestager today confirmed that it has formally charged the iPhone maker, which could result in a hefty fine if it is upheld.
In a statement, Vestager said that the Commission had "indications that Apple restricted third-party access to key technology necessary to develop rival mobile wallet solutions on Apple's devices," adding that the company "may have restricted competition, to the benefit of its own solution."
Developers, the Commission argues in its Statement of Objections, have been barred from "accessing the necessary hardware and software" to create their own NFC payment services on Apple devices. Contactless payments are popular across Europe, but Apple Pay remains the only contactless option for in-store payments on iPhone and iPad.
"Apple Pay is only one of many options available to European consumers for making payments, and has ensured equal access to NFC while setting industry-leading standards for privacy and security," Apple said in a statement. "We will continue to engage with the Commission to ensure European consumers have access to the payment option of their choice in a safe and secure environment.
The Commission opened a dual review into both Apple's in-app and NFC payment systems in June 2020, noting that the company's choice could stifle competition and therefore reduce consumer choice. The Commission says that today's announcement relates only to the "NFC input by third-party developers of mobile wallets for payments in stores" and not online restrictions against or "refusals of access to Apple Pay" for competing services.
Apple has previously said that it limits third-party access to contactless payments in order to boost security. It claims that its own technology prevents fraudulent payments by using a secure chip inside the iPhone antenna.
A Statement of Objections provides Apple with a list of exceptions that it argues go against EU antitrust rules. The company will now be invited to reply to the issues raised and request a meeting with officials, which means it could be some time before an official decision is reached.