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14 February 2017, 12:38 | Chelsea Hernandez
An Apple iPhone 6 with Apple Pay is shown in this
The group of Australian banks arguing for the right to collectively negotiate with Apple over the introduction of Apple Pay in the country have dropped their request to jointly arrange how to "pass-through" additional fees Apple imposes on its mobile payment service, and will now focus exclusively on gaining access to the NFC functionality within the iPhone.
Apple has said that even if the ACCC grants the banks' application it will not offer open slather access to the iPhone's NFC capabilities.
"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".
Last week, a report by Reuters stated that Macquarie Group and ING Direct would start using Apple Inc's mobile payment service in Australia this month, joining the Australia and New Zealand Banking Group, which was the only one of the major banks to not call for cartel authorisation and adopt the Apple Pay system. Apple has restricted access to its own apps and says giving others access would undermine the security and usability of the system.
"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 now uncertain and may be limited".
In the banks' latest statement to the ACCC, they say: "NFC access allows real competition and real choice for consumers".
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"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".
At the time, ACCC Chairman Rod Sims told Reuters that if fees were at the heart of the banks' application, then it would be hard for them to win approval. In a draft ruling in December, the Australian Competition & Consumer Commission refused permission for the banks to negotiate collectively, but said the decision was "finely balanced".
The banks believe that there is already substantial competitive tension from Australia and New Zealand Banking Group (ANZ), American Express, and the 37 other institutions who now offer Apple Pay.
"All the banks are asking for is for the NFC to be opened up, or the antenna to be opened up on the Apple phones", Bendigo and Adelaide bank's managing director Mike Hirst told investors during the bank's 2017 interim results earnings call.
According to Blockley, the application seeks permission to jointly negotiate with Apple and is not an attempt to delay Apple Pay from entering the Australian market.
iPhone users can use Apple Pay to register credit cards, and making payments by swiping the devices over contactless payment terminals. NFC is commonly used as a means of contactless payment for smartphones. "Both parties need each other to bring strong mobile payment offerings to the market". Apple keeps it guarded and does not allow any other application to use it other than Apple Wallet for security reasons. Particularly in a relatively small market like Australia, the banks said that larger addressable market provided by NFC access on the iPhone platform increases the incentives to invest, and would reduce the cost and risk of failure and enhance the likely chances of success.
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