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In a significant move, Apple has announced plans to grant third-party mobile payment providers access to its iPhone NFC chip within the European Union. This decision marks a departure from Apple’s previous stance, where it restricted third-party systems from utilizing the near-field communication (NFC) technology for contactless payments since the introduction of Apple Pay in 2015.
While initial rumors hinted at this change in December, Apple has now officially confirmed its commitment to open access within the EU. The tech giant disclosed, “Through our ongoing discussions with the European Commission, we have offered commitments to provide third-party developers in the European Economic Area with an option that will enable their users to make NFC contactless payments from within their iOS apps, separate from Apple Pay and Apple Wallet,” as reported by the Wall Street Journal.
As of now, there is no indication that Apple intends to extend this access beyond the EU. The commitment includes a ten-year obligation for Apple to provide access, with potential fines of up to 10% of its worldwide annual turnover if it fails to comply.
This decision follows an intensified investigation by EU regulators into Apple’s alleged anticompetitive behavior related to third-party access to its NFC technology. The European Commission has expressed concerns that Apple’s limitation of the iPhone’s built-in NFC chip to Apple Pay is hindering fair competition and preventing other companies from entering the mobile payment market.
Back in 2019, EU investigators sought feedback from payment companies regarding Apple Pay, expressing worries that the restriction on the iPhone’s NFC chip might impede competition in the mobile payment sector.
Apple has faced criticism from various governmental agencies over the years for restricting access to NFC technology on its devices. Notably, Australian banks challenged Apple Pay shortly after its release, attempting a boycott to negotiate access to the NFC hardware within Apple devices for third-party use. However, they eventually withdrew their opposition after the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission denied their boycott request in 2017.
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