Australian banks pull no punches in acrimonious Apple Pay dispute

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The simmering dispute between Apple and four of Australia’s leading banks over terms of access to Apple Pay has erupted into a fresh slanging match as the banking collective presses home its campaign to secure collective bargaining rights for NFC access to iPhones.

The banks – Commonwealth Bank of Australia, Westpac Banking Corporation, National Australia Bank, and Bendigo and Adelaide Bank – are seeking permission from the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) to engage in collective negotiation and boycott activities with Apple in relation to the roll out of Apple Pay in Australia.

In a 137-page submission to the ACCC, the banks accuse Apple of trying to piggyback on their investment in the country’s national contactless infrastructure, while remaining “intransigent, closed and controlling” in dictating terms for support of Apple Pay.

“By locking out any independent access to the NFC function on iOS devices, Apple is seeking for itself the exclusive use of Australia’s existing NFC terminal infrastructure for the making of integrated mobile payments using iOS devices,” they state. “Yet, this infrastructure was built and paid for by Australian banks and merchants for the benefit of all Australians.”

Apple has retaliated by accusing the banks of exhibiting cartel-like behaviour, stifling competition and creating undue security risks.

The banks dismiss Apple’s claim that opening up access to the NFC function would undermine security or customer experience as “completely baseless”, and point to subversion of this policy in China and Japan, where the consumer electronics group was forced to modify its demands in order to maintain parity with rival Samsung Pay.

Speaking on behalf of the banks, payments specialists Lance Blockley says: “This is about the future of mobile payments in Australia. Will it be ‘Apple’s way or no way’, or a genuine level playing field so all consumers can have the best digital services, no matter what device they own.”

The ACCC has said it will make its final ruling on the dispute sometime this month.

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