Australian banks confirm ACCC battle is all about Apple Pay

Angus Kidman 18 October 2016


A new submission takes Android Pay and Samsung Pay out of the loop.

Ever since a consortium of Australian banks applied to the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission for the rights to collectively negotiate over access to mobile payment platforms, it has been clear that there was only really one company the banks were worried about: Apple.

While the original application did also name Google and Samsung, the latest response from Commonwealth Bank, NAB, Westpac and Adelaide and Bendigo Bank makes it crystal clear that the whole argument is over access to the NFC features on the iPhone, which can be used to allow contactless payments.

Apple's position is clear: it believes that letting any app developer gain access to the iPhone's NFC would represent a security risk, so it won't let any app other than its own Apple Pay platform use it. That's not the case on Android and other devices, where banks can integrate NFC into their own apps. That's useful for consumers, but means the phone manufacturer can't demand a share of the payments. So far, only ANZ and American Express have launched Apple Pay in Australia (here's a full list of the cards that support it).

A summary of the latest submission from the original applicants, which was lodged with the ACCC earlier this month and made public yesterday, effectively acknowledges that Apple is the only company the banks really have beef with:

In the response, the Applicants make clear:

  • The application to enter joint negotiations is restricted to negotiations with Apple;
  • The focus of the negotiation will be over access to the NFC (Near Field Communication) function on iOS devices;
  • 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. Yet, this infrastructure was built and paid for by Australian banks and merchants for the benefit of all Australians;
  • Apple’s claim that providing the Applicant’s access to the NFC function would undermine security or customer experience is completely baseless.
  • Android, Windows and BlackBerry phones all provide access to their NFC in line with global standards of security for contactless payments set out by the card schemes. There is no evidence that Android Pay, Samsung Pay, or any of the mobile payment apps that have been developed for those platforms have affected security.

Technical arguments aside, this is mostly about greed. Apple wants to ensure that it can get a cut of transactions made using its phones. Banks want the amount they hand over to be as small as possible. When the ACCC finally makes its decision later this month, we'll see who ends up better off.

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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