Antitrust: Commission opens investigation into Apple practices regarding Apple Pay and Apple Store

17 iunie 2020

The European Commission has opened a formal antitrust investigation to assess whether Apple’s conduct in connection with Apple Pay violates EU competition rules.

„The investigation concerns Apple’s terms, conditions and other measures for integrating Apple Pay in merchant apps and websites on iPhones and iPads, Apple’s limitation of access to the Near Field Communication (NFC) functionality (“tap and go”) on iPhones for payments in stores, and alleged refusals of access to Apple Pay.”, according to the press release.

The investigation concerns the above conducts of Apple in the European Economic Area (EEA).

Executive Vice-President Margrethe Vestager, in charge of competition policy, said: „Mobile payment solutions are rapidly gaining acceptance among users of mobile devices, facilitating payments both online and in physical stores. This growth is accelerated by the coronavirus crisis, with increasing online payments and contactless payments in stores. It appears that Apple sets the conditions on how Apple Pay should be used in merchants’ apps and websites. It also reserves the “tap and go” functionality of iPhones to Apple Pay. It is important that Apple’s measures do not deny consumers the benefits of new payment technologies, including better choice, quality, innovation and competitive prices. I have therefore decided to take a close look at Apple’s practices regarding Apple Pay and their impact on competition.”

Apple Pay is Apple’s proprietary mobile payment solution on iPhones and iPads, used to enable payments in merchant apps and websites as well as in physical stores.

Following a preliminary investigation, the Commisison has concerns that Apple’s terms, conditions, and other measures related to the integration of Apple Pay for the purchase of goods and services on merchant apps and websites on iOS/iPadOS devices may distort competition and reduce choice and innovation.

In addition, Apple Pay is the only mobile payment solution that may access the NFC “tap and go” technology embedded on iOS mobile devices for payments in stores. The investigation will also focus on alleged restrictions of access to Apple Pay for specific products of rivals on iOS and iPadOS smart mobile devices.

The Commission will investigate the possible impact of Apple’s practices on competition in providing mobile payments solutions.

If proven, the practices under investigation may breach EU competition rules on anticompetitive agreements between companies (Article 101 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU)) and/or on the abuse of a dominant position (Articles 102 TFEU).

The Commission will carry out its in-depth investigation as a matter of priority. The opening of a formal investigation does not prejudge its outcome.

In parallel, today the Commission has opened also formal antitrust investigations to assess whether Apple’s rules for app developers on the distribution of apps via the App Store violate EU competition rules.

The investigations concern in particular the mandatory use of Apple’s own proprietary in-app purchase system and restrictions on the ability of developers to inform iPhone and iPad users of alternative cheaper purchasing possibilities outside of apps.

The investigations concern the application of these rules to all apps, which compete with Apple’s own apps and services in the European Economic Area (EEA). The investigations follow-up on separate complaints by Spotify and by an e-book/audiobook distributor on the impact of the App Store rules on competition in music streaming and e-books/audiobooks.

Executive Vice-President Margrethe Vestager, in charge of competition policy, said: „Mobile applications have fundamentally changed the way we access content. Apple sets the rules for the distribution of apps to users of iPhones and iPads. It appears that Apple obtained a “gatekeeper” role when it comes to the distribution of apps and content to users of Apple’s popular devices. We need to ensure that Apple’s rules do not distort competition in markets where Apple is competing with other app developers, for example with its music streaming service Apple Music or with Apple Books. I have therefore decided to take a close look at Apple’s App Store rules and their compliance with EU competition rules.”  

iPhone and iPad users can only download native (non web-based) apps via the App Store.

The Commission will investigate in particular two restrictions imposed by Apple in its agreements with companies that wish to distribute apps to users of Apple devices:

(i)   The mandatory use of Apple’s own proprietary in-app purchase system “IAP” for the distribution of paid digital content. Apple charges app developers a 30% commission on all subscription fees through IAP.

(ii)  Restrictions on the ability of developers to inform users of alternative purchasing possibilities outside of apps. While Apple allows users to consume content such as music, e-books and audiobooks purchased elsewhere (e.g. on the website of the app developer) also in the app, its rules prevent developers from informing users about such purchasing possibilities, which are usually cheaper.

The Commission has informed Apple and the competition authorities of the Member States that it has opened proceedings in this case.

There is no legal deadline for bringing an antitrust investigation to an end. The duration of an antitrust investigation depends on a number of factors, including the complexity of the case, the extent to which the undertakings concerned cooperate with the Commission and the exercise of the rights of defence.

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Gabriela Nistor – director general adjunct BT

Tendinţele pe care le-am remarcat înainte de începerea pandemiei s-au accelerat pe perioada stării de urgenţă. Am văzut acest lucru ca o oportunitate, un tipping point pentru bancă. Post-pandemie nu avem cum sa ne întoarcem la comportamentul financiar pe care îl aveam până în februarie a.c. Relaţia românilor cu online-ul s-a schimbat. In plus, cardul fizic se va dematerializa. Vom asista la o scădere a cererii pentru cardurile fizice, respectiv la o creştere a preferinţei pentru componenta digitală a acestora.”

Sondaj

In 23 septembrie 2019, BNR a anuntat infiintarea unui Fintech Innovation Hub pentru a sustine inovatia in domeniul serviciilor financiare si de plata. In acest sens, care credeti ca ar trebui sa fie urmatorul pas al bancii centrale in 2020?