Three of the largest Australian banks have filed a collective application with anti-trust regulators against what they say is Apple's anticompetitive practice in electronic payments.
The banks want to be granted the right to collectively negotiate with the OEM for installing third-party electronic payment apps on iPhones. As a reminder, Apple, which has its proprietary Apple Pay mobile wallet, restricts the installation of third-party electronic payment apps to its handsets.
The initiative comes in a climate of coldness between Australia's main lenders and the tech company. The three banks have already refused to ink deals with Apple Pay, as they are aiming to have their own electronic wallet systems installed on their customers' iPhones.
Apple CEO Tim Cook recently unveiled that the number of monthly users for Apple Pay increased by 400 percent on a year-over-year comparison. Apple Pay is live in multiple global markets, and more than half of its transactions are registered outside the United States.
Meanwhile, the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) has to decide if the group formed by the National Australia Bank, the Commonwealth Bank of Australia and the Westpac Banking Corp can tap on their own into the stream of revenue that is electronic payments. Bendigo and Adelaide Bank is a smaller lender that has joined the big financial names in their application.
The three Australian banks claim that Apple plays a double game. On one hand, it does permit apps on iPhones to run various common technologies such as Wi-Fi and Bluetooth, but on the other hand it restricts the usage of NFC technology, which enables mobile wallets to work. In the eyes of the three Australian lenders, this qualifies as anticompetitive behavior.
The ACCC refused to make any official comment on the matter.
Lance Blockley, who is the spokesman for the bloc of lenders, said the banks putting their foot down is a world premiere, as financial institutions usually negotiate with Apple until a win-win solution is agreed upon.
The service was rolled out in Australia in April this year, when Australia and New Zealand Bank allowed its American Express and Visa cardholders to use the service. The bank is the only one from the top four lenders in the country that did not join the petition.
Owners of the iPhone can use Apple Pay in six markets: the U.S., the UK, Canada, Australia, Singapore and China, and there is talk about reaching out to other countries as well.
Despite a general climate of reluctance for implementing the service, banks from overseas markets eventually caved in and agreed to integrate Apple Pay with their services. Four banks in Singapore, as well as the biggest five lenders from Canada, are part of the partnership.
Apple faces competition from rival services, such as Samsung Pay and Android Pay, but continues to dominate the electronics payment market in its home country. The company says 75 percent of contactless payments in the U.S. are made using Apple Pay.
Apple Australia did not make any official comment on the banks' complaint, but we will keep you posted on the developments of the case.