Game over: ACCC says final “no” to banks in Apple Pay stoush

Angus Kidman 31 March 2017

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Regulator won't let CommBank, Westpac and NAB collectively negotiate with Apple over NFC access.

Australia's competition regulator has officially closed the door on an application by three of Australia's Big Four banks to be given special leave to collectively negotiate with Apple over access to its Apple Pay digital wallet and to the NFC contactless payments features on iPhones.

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) today issued its final determination, saying that allowing Commonwealth Bank, Westpac, NAB (along with Adelaide & Bendigo Bank) to collectively negotiate would ultimately be damaging to consumers.

"The ACCC is not satisfied, on balance, that the likely benefits from the proposed conduct outweigh the likely detriments. We are concerned that the proposed conduct is likely to reduce or distort competition in a number of markets," ACCC Chairman Rod Sims said in a statement announcing the decision.

"While the ACCC accepts that the opportunity for the banks to collectively negotiate and boycott would place them in a better bargaining position with Apple, the benefits would be outweighed by detriments," Sims said.

The banks first applied to be allowed an exemption from laws which ban collective negotiation back in July last year, launching a veritable flood of claims and counter-claims. The ACCC issued a preliminary finding denying the application in November last year.

Of Australia's Big Four banks, so far only ANZ has negotiated a deal with Apple for Apple Pay access. Amex and several credit unions have also scored similar deals; check our full list of Apple Pay credit card providers in Australia to see who is currently on board.

The decision makes it likely that the other banks will now look to strike individual deals with Apple. A key sticking point has been the transaction fees Apple charges to banks, and the fact that Apple insists all payments made through iPhones must be routed through Apple Pay, rather than using the apps developed by the banks themselves. Apple argued that allowing any banks to directly access NFC would pose a major security risk.

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