The following is a press release from Bendigo and Adelaide Bank, Commonwealth Bank of Australia, National Australia Bank, and Westpac. The group of Australian banks applying to the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) for permission to jointly negotiate over access to Apple Pay and the Near Field Communication (NFC)* function on iPhones, have today announced they have narrowed the application to solely focus on open access to the NFC function.
Open access to the NFC function on iPhone is required to enable real choice and real competition for consumers, and to facilitate innovation and investment in the digital wallets available to Australians. Without open NFC access on iPhone, no genuine competition in the provision of mobile wallets is possible and Apple will have a stranglehold on this strategically important future market.
The four banks making the application – Bendigo and Adelaide Bank, Commonwealth Bank of Australia, National Australia Bank, and Westpac – have responded to concerns raised in the ACCC’s finely balanced draft determination, and proposed to remove from consideration items the ACCC considered may lead to a public detriment.
In the applicants’ response to the ACCC, the applicants have addressed these concerns by removing collective negotiation on the potential to pass-through the additional fees Apple wishes to impose on the payment system (i.e., the requested collective negotiation will be in relation to NFC access alone), and limiting the authorisation term to 18 months – half the original term sought.
Open NFC access would enable the delivery of substantial public benefits to Australian consumers, not just in payments, but across retailing, loyalty programs, building or member lounge security, and other NFC-use cases. As a result, the applicants have again been supported by nearly all of Australia’s leading retailers, as well as competitors in the provision of payments services to merchants.
The applicants flatly reject Apple’s unsupported assertions that the application is about an objection to the fees that Apple wishes to impose, rather than NFC access. Apple’s conspiracy theories about “Trojan horse fees” are similarly dismissed by the applicants as fantasy.
Apple recorded over $US7 billion in services revenue, which includes Apple Pay fees, from their customers in the last 3 months of 2016 alone, and hopes to double that over the next four years. With their services business set to become the size of a standalone Fortune 100 company this year, Apple is the leading expert on deriving fee revenues from iPhone users, not the applicants.
“The applicants are ready, willing, and able to participate in Apple Pay, alongside being able to offer their customers their own mobile wallet products,” payments specialist and spokesperson on behalf of the applicants, Lance Blockley, said.
“This application has always been about consumer choice, and allowing competition between the makers of mobile wallets to offer the best products and features they can to determine which mobile wallet consumers will use. The applicants want to put up their digital offerings head to head with Apple Pay, and let the market and individual consumers decide which best suits their needs.
“Open access to the NFC function, as occurs on the world’s most popular and widely installed mobile operating system Android, is important not just to the applicants and mobile payments, but to a range of NFC-powered functions across many sectors and uses. This has global implications for the use of NFC on smart phones.
“The application seeks permission to jointly negotiate with Apple; this is not an attempt to delay Apple Pay from entering the Australian market. The applicants expect that Apple Pay would be offered to their customers alongside open access to the NFC function. Any delay or frustration will be as a result of Apple refusing to negotiate.
“Apple is not a bank or a credit card scheme, and Apple cannot on their own complete a mobile payment. Nor are the applicants manufacturers of mobile phones – both parties need each other to bring strong mobile payment offerings to the market.”
The applicants look forward to the ACCC’s final decision, and believe their submission further demonstrates the net public benefits of the application, and substantially removes any risk of public detriment.