ACCC: No collective bargaining with Apple

29 November 2016
The ACCC has proposed to deny the Big 4 banks the right to collectively bargain with Apple over the use and cost of Apple Pay 

Apple Pay has been available in Australia for more than 12 months now (and was first announced by Apple more than two years ago) but it’s not yet offered by all. Of the Big 4 banks, ANZ offers Apple Pay – the other three of the Big 4, along with Bendigo and Adelaide Bank

The Commonwealth Bank of Australia,Westpac Banking Corporation, National Australia Bank, and Bendigo and Adelaide Bank recently sought authorisation from the ACCC to collectively bargain with and boycott Apple on Apple Pay. The banks sought authorisation to bargain with Apple on two key issues:

  • Access to the Near­Field Communication (NFC) controller in iPhones. Such access would enable the banks to offer their own integrated digital wallets to iPhone customers in competition with Apple’s digital wallet without using Apple Pay
  • Removing restrictions Apple imposes on banks preventing them from passing on fees that Apple charges the banks for the use of its digital wallet.

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission has issued a draft determination proposing, on balance, to deny authorisation to collectively bargain.
“This is currently a finely balanced decision. The ACCC is not currently satisfied that the likely benefits from the proposed conduct outweigh the likely detriments,” ACCC Chairman Rod Sims said.
The banks argue that being able to collectively bargain with Apple will increase the likelihood of being able to offer competing wallets on the iOS platform and pass through Apple fees.
The ACCC argues that banks can already offer competing digital wallets on iPhones without direct access to NFC, through their own apps using Apple Pay payment technology, or using NFC tags. Banks can also offer digital wallets on the Android platform.

“While the ACCC accepts that the opportunity for the banks to collectively negotiate and boycott would place them in a better bargaining position with Apple, the benefits are currently uncertain and may be limited,” Mr Sims said.

“Apple Wallet and other non­bank digital wallets could represent a disruptive technology that may increase competition between the banks by making it easier for consumers to switch between card providers and limiting any ‘lock in’ effect bank digital wallets may cause,” Mr Sims said.
The ACCC is seeking submissions on its draft determination before making a final decision.

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