Exclusive-Apple to face EU antitrust charge over NFC chip

By Foo Yun Chee

BRUSSELS (Reuters) – Apple will face an EU antitrust charge over its NFC chip technology, people familiar with the matter said, a move that puts it at risk of a possible hefty fine and could force it to open its rivals mobile payment system.

The iPhone maker has been in the sights of European Union antitrust chief Margrethe Vestager since June last year when she launched an investigation into Apple Pay.

Preliminary concerns were Apple’s NFC chip that enables tap-and-go payments on iPhones, its terms and conditions on how the Apple Pay mobile payment service should be used in merchant apps and websites, and the company’s refusal to allow its competitors to access the payment system. .

The European Commission has since focused on the only NFC chip, which is only accessible through Apple Pay, one of the sources said.

The European competition authority is currently preparing an indictment known as a statement of objections, which could be sent to Apple next year, one of the sources said. These documents generally set out practices considered anti-competitive by the regulator.

The Commission, which has three other cases against Apple, declined to comment. It can fine companies up to 10% of their global revenue for violating EU rules, which, based on Apple’s 2020 revenue, could reach $ 27.4 billion.

Apple, which cited privacy and security concerns for its Apple Pay policy, was not immediately available for comment.

Apple shares fell 1% to $ 139.6 at the start of trading

NFC-enabled payments have grown in popularity in part because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Apple Pay’s broad reach and superior customer experience on a mobile website or in-store give it a competitive edge over its competition, some analysts say.

Apple Pay is also on the radar of other regulators and authorities. South Korea last month approved a bill to ban major app store operators, including Apple, from forcing software developers to use their payment systems.

Germany passed a law in 2019 requiring Apple to open up its mobile payment system to competitors for a reasonable price.

In the same year, the Dutch competition watchdog launched an investigation into the App Store and the requirement that app developers use its payment systems for in-app purchases and pay a 30% fee the first. year.

(Reporting by Foo Yun Chee; Editing by Jason Neely and Jan Harvey)

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