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Commonwealth Bank CEO Attacks Apple

Commonwealth Bank chief executive Matt Comyn has asked Parliament to regulate Apple’s Pay system, accusing the tech giant of anti-competitive measures.

Comyn told a parliamentary joint committee that the small payments Apple charges banks using iPhone’s near field communication chips, and restrictions they place on the technology, gives the company an anti-competitive advantage.

“Without access to the NFC, it is not even possible to have a competing service,” Comyn said, calling regulators to reclassify Apple as a payment system, or create “obligations or countervailing factors that reintroduce competitive tension”.

Apple Pay digitises payments cards, with over 9,000 global banks using the service, paying a small fee per transaction for the honour.

Comyn says ASIC should regulate Apple under the ePayments Code, which Apple are currently not covered by, arguing the company benefits from an Australian payments infrastructure it has not invested in.

Commonwealth Bank is tying this argument with the ACCC’s earlier findings in the digital platforms inquiry, which highlighted concerns with both Apple and Google’s app stores, and the way they wielded their power.

“This is consistent with our experience,” said Comyn.

“Manufacturers of mobile handsets and associated software set the terms on which third parties can offer these app-based services, particularly with respect to payments for, and via, these services,” he said.

“They also can restrict apps that provide services that compete directly with those supplied by the manufacturer of the mobile device.

“The ability for mobile phone providers to restrict competing services accessed through the app store will inevitably lead to distortions in markets for services provided through mobile apps. These distortions will only intensify if left unaddressed.”

Apple told the committee its near field communication was available to all banks, and therefore was “pro-competition”, with large and small banks paying the same fees to use tap and go payments via Apple Pay.

Comyn called this a “selective interpretation”, pointing out Apple Pay’s “very limited set of features” and that simply switching between cards being true choice is an “argument of convenience”.

“No-one is suggesting Apple Pay shouldn’t exist as a wallet. All we have ever been seeking is to allow competing wallets, and ultimately allowing the customer decide what is the best experience.”

 

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