Por Foo Yun Chee
BRUSSELS, Belgium (Reuters) – European Union antitrust regulators accused Apple on Monday of restricting rivals’ access to its NFC chip technology, a move that could result in a hefty fine for the company and force it to open the mobile payment system for competitors.
The European Commission said it sent a document known as a statement of objections to Apple, detailing how the company abused its dominant position in the mobile wallet markets on iOS devices.
“We have indications that Apple has restricted third-party access to key technologies needed to develop rival mobile wallet solutions on Apple devices,” EU antitrust chief Margrethe Vestager said in a statement.
“In our statement of objections, we preliminarily found that Apple may have restricted competition for the benefit of its own Apple Pay solution,” she said.
Apple, which could be fined up to 10% of its global revenue or $36.6 billion based on last year’s revenue, said it would remain in contact with the Commission.
“Apple Pay is just one of many options available to European consumers for making payments and has ensured equal access to NFC by setting industry-leading standards for privacy and security,” the company said in a statement.
Apple Pay is used by over 2,500 banks in Europe and over 250 fintechs and digital banks. The NFC chip allows payments by approaching iPhones and iPads at retailers’ electronic terminals.
Vestager rejected the company’s security argument. “Our investigation to date has not uncovered any evidence that points to such a high security risk. On the contrary, evidence in our case indicates that Apple’s conduct cannot be justified by security concerns,” she told reporters.
Apple may ask for a closed-door hearing to defend its case and also submit a written response before the Commission issues a decision, which can take a year or more.
(Por Foo Yun Chee)