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Apple Pay targeted in Dutch antitrust probe into payment apps

Apple Inc. phones face scrutiny from Dutch antitrust regulators who are probing whether users get a free choice of financial apps with contactless payments.

Apple Pay’s terms and conditions for merchant apps and websites are separately the focus of an EU antitrust probe
Apple Pay’s terms and conditions for merchant apps and websites are separately the focus of an EU antitrust probe (REUTERS)

The Netherlands Authority for Consumers and Markets said on Friday it started an investigation into payment apps’ access to near-field communication, which allows people to wave their phones at payment terminals to make purchases.

While the regulator didn’t name Apple, it cited concerns that “the software on some smartphones only allows the software developer’s own payment app to connect to NFC communication.”

At present, iPhone and Apple Watch users can only make NFC payments using Apple Pay. Banks and other competitors have complained they want the same functionality for their own iPhone apps but that Apple refuses access to the chip.

The Dutch authority “will investigate whether limiting the payment apps’ access to NFC communication reduces the users’ freedom of choice,” it said. If it “does establish a violation, it may result in a penalty, such as a fine.”

Apple Pay’s terms and conditions for merchant apps and websites are separately the focus of an EU antitrust probe. The EU is also weighing legislation that could force Apple to open up NFC to competitors.

While Apple declined to comment directly on the investigation, it said it “designed Apple Pay as a simple and secure way for customers to use the payment card of their choice on their Apple devices.”

It said it competes every day, “working with banks, fintechs and merchants to be the best payment option for business and consumers across the Netherlands.”

By Aoife White

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