European Union pushes ahead with investigation into Apple Pay

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European Commission trustbuster Margrethe Vestager has Siri in her sights.
European Commission trustbuster Margrethe Vestager has her sights set on Apple Pay.
Photo: ECR Group/Flickr CC

The European Union has warned Apple that regulators’ investigation into Apple Pay is going ahead. In an interview with Bloomberg News, EU Competition Commissioner Margrethe Vestager said the Apple Pay case is “quite advanced” and “something that we’re pushing forward.”

The gist of the Apple Pay investigation is whether Apple gives its mobile payments solution an unfair advantage over the competition. In late 2019, EU antitrust investigators sent banks and rival payment services a questionnaire on this topic. The European Commission subsequently opened a formal antitrust probe into Apple Pay in June 2020.

Apple Pay is big business for Apple

Apple Pay did not launch until late 2014, making the service late to the mobile payments scene. However, while Apple Pay may not be the first technology people think of when they think “Apple,” it’s nonetheless become an increasingly important area for the company. According to a Financial Times report published at the end of last year, roughly half the people who own an iPhone use Apple Pay. The service could help facilitate 1 in 10 credit card transactions worldwide by 2025. Apple takes approximately 0.15% of each transaction.

The Financial Times quoted a lawyer who said the EU is clearly focused on Apple:

“Thomas Vinje, a partner at the law firm Clifford Chance who has worked on Spotify’s competition complaint against Apple, said EU regulators are keen to put Apple Pay high on their agenda. ‘It is clear to me that there is a very large appetite toward pursuing antitrust cases towards Apple,’ he said. ‘There is political momentum behind it.'”

A Bloomberg report from September 2020 said the EU is considering making a law that would require Apple to open up its NFC technology for other mobile payment services beyond Apple Pay. Apple argues that this could increase fraud and the possibility of security breaches.

EU competition chief Vestager said this week that the EU is “following … very closely” the current Epic Games v. Apple court case in the United States. The European Union has another investigation currently probing Apple’s control of the App Store. Specifically, this deals with Apple Music and its competitors. However, she said the U.S. outcome won’t dictate European law.

“We would have to do our own thing no matter the outcome of the U.S. casework,” she said.

Source: Bloomberg