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European antitrust push could force Apple to share its NFC crown

Dado Ruvic / reuters

In an effort to avoid both a fine and an ongoing legal dispute with the European Union, Apple is reportedly extending an offer to provide its rivals access to its Near-Field Communication (NFC) technology, which is utilized for tap-and-go payments, as per Reuters. This development comes in response to the European Commission’s charges in May 2022 and its ongoing investigation into Apple’s potential antitrust practices related to Apple Pay.

The European Commission initiated its probe into Apple in 2020, with Executive Vice-President Margrethe Vestager previously stating concerns about “indications that Apple restricted third-party access to key technology necessary to develop rival mobile wallet solutions on Apple’s devices.”

While Apple’s proposal presents an opportunity to avoid a significant fine and resolve the case, its acceptance is not guaranteed. The Commission is expected to consult with Apple’s rivals and customers over the next month or so to assess whether to approve the offer. It’s worth noting that more than 2,500 banks across Europe currently use Apple Pay.

Apple is also confronting legal challenges in the United States, with a lawsuit filed in July 2022 by Iowa’s Affinity Credit Union. In a similar fashion, the lawsuit alleges that Apple is involved in anti-competitive practices by unlawfully constraining iOS users to utilize Apple Pay exclusively for contactless payments.

In September 2023, US District Court Judge Jeffrey S. White of California determined that the case would proceed, asserting, “Plaintiffs have credibly asserted that Apple Pay imposes arbitrary and inflated fees on issuers, and that fostering competition in the tap-and-pay iOS mobile wallet market would encourage innovation and result in reduced prices.” Judge White’s decision also outlined that the plaintiffs effectively demonstrated Apple’s purported and attempted monopolization.

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