Apple Pay Wars: Coles is treading very carefully

Angus Kidman 24 August 2016


The supermarket giant doesn't want to upset Tim Cook, it seems.

We're going to be waiting for a while to see if Australia's big banks will be allowed to collectively negotiate with Apple over access to Apple Pay and the NFC contactless function in iPhones. As we reported last week, the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) rejected the request by CommBank, NAB and Westpac for a fast-tracked interim authorisation, saying it wanted more time to study the issue.

While we're waiting, it's interesting to check out the submissions made to the ACCC by other "interested parties". We've already looked at the responses from Heritage Bank and Tyro, both of which were entirely supportive.

The submission from supermarket giant Coles (made prior to the ACCC draft decision) is a slightly different beast. While Coles does broadly back the application, there are some tell-tale signs that it also wants to keep Apple on side. That makes sense: after all, Coles wants to be able to continue to sell iTunes gift cards (as do its Wesfarmers corporate siblings, Kmart and Target).

Coles' reason for making a submission is that, as well as operating 2,386 stores across the country, it offers a range of credit and debit cards. It's a big fan of NFC, which has been available in all its stores since 2012. And just like the major banks, Coles wants to be able to access the NFC chip in iPhones as part of its own payment app:

Coles MasterCard customers are able to access mobile payments via our Coles MobileWallet and Pay Tag which was launched in July 2014. This proposition is free to customers and feedback has been positive with respect to the simplicity and integrated nature of the experience. A customer can "tap & go" using the tag on their mobile phone and, via the app, they can control the tag, check balances and review their flybuys loyalty offers all in one place. We believe the ability to tailor solutions for customers and provide them with greater value should be the driver for customer choice and not a technical lockout that many consumers may not have realised would be imposed when they purchased their mobile device.

That's as close as the submission comes to directly criticising Apple, but note that the company isn't mentioned by name. For Coles, the key argument is that these approaches should be developed collectively: "It is important to recognise that the industry has collectively made very significant investment in payments technologies like NFC, with an open and inclusive approach aimed at continually improving the experience of all customers."

That seems logical enough, though it's an argument Apple entirely rejects. Its own submission argues (rather more bluntly) that the only way to ensure iPhones remain secure is for it to control access to NFC. We're going to need a lot of popcorn for this one.

Angus Kidman's Findings column looks at new developments and research that help you save money, make wise decisions and enjoy your life more. It appears Monday through Friday on

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