Antitrust investigation launched into the use of Apple Pay for customer payments 3 months ago

Antitrust investigation launched into the use of Apple Pay for customer payments

Payments via Apple and Google Pay have accounted for approximately one third of all in-store transactions from people under 25 in Ireland following the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic.

The European Commission has opened a formal antitrust investigation into the use of Apple Pay, the mobile payment option popular amongst users of Apple devices such as iPhones, iPads and Apple watches.

The investigation, announced on Tuesday (16 June), will assess whether Apple Pay violates EU competition rules.

More specifically, it concerns Apple's terms, conditions and other measures for integrating Apple Pay in merchant apps and websites on Apple devices, limitation of access to ‘tap and go’ functionality on said devices for payments in stores, and alleged refusals of access to Apple Pay.

The use of mobile payment options such as Apple Pay has increased significantly since the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic, with consumers increasingly opting for contactless payment.

Recent data from AIB, for example, suggests that Apple and Google Pay accounted for one third of all in-store transactions from those under the age of 25 in Ireland since the onset of Covid-19, with average in-store spend from that age bracket increasing by just under 25% for Apple Pay users.

After a preliminary investigation, the European Commission has concerns that Apple's terms, conditions, and other measures related to Apple Pay may distort competition and reduce choice and innovation.

The investigation will also focus on alleged restrictions of access to Apple Pay for specific products of rivals on Apple devices, such as tap and go payments from banks and service providers through their own apps.

European Commission Executive Vice-President Margrethe Vestager, in charge of competition policy, said: "Mobile payment solutions are rapidly gaining acceptance among users of mobile devices, facilitating payments both online and in physical stores. This growth is accelerated by the coronavirus crisis, with increasing online payments and contactless payments in stores.

“It appears that Apple sets the conditions on how Apple Pay should be used in merchants' apps and websites. It also reserves the ‘tap and go’ functionality of iPhones to Apple Pay. It is important that Apple's measures do not deny consumers the benefits of new payment technologies, including better choice, quality, innovation and competitive prices.

“I have therefore decided to take a close look at Apple's practices regarding Apple Pay and their impact on competition.”

The European Commission has also opened an antitrust investigations to assess whether Apple's rules for app developers on the App Store violate EU competition rules.

The investigation follows complaints from major companies such as Spotify and Rakuten about Apple’s in-app purchase system and restrictions on how app developers can inform users of purchasing possibilities outside of the apps.

Apple itself has given short shrift to the investigation, saying in a statement: "It's disappointing the European Commission is advancing baseless complaints from a handful of companies who simply want a free ride, and don't want to play by the same rules as everyone else.

"We don't think that's right - we want to maintain a level playing field where anyone with determination and a great idea can succeed.”

More details on the European Commission Investigation are available here.