Standing firm on the decision it originally handed down in November, the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission has officially rejected a proposal from a handful of big Australian banks that would have allowed them to negotiate in a group with Apple.
The news comes as Apple Pay’s rollout continues to lag in Australia due to disagreements between Apple and the big banks.
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Due to anti-cartel laws in Australia, Commonwealth Bank of Australia, Westpac Banking Corporation, National Australia Bank, and Bendigo and Adelaide Bank are required to negotiate individually with Apple as opposed to in a group. This ensures that competition is fair and unhindered during the negotiating process.
In a statement, ACCC chairman Rod Sims explained that the detriments of the banks negotiating together with Apple outweigh the benefits:
“The ACCC is not satisfied, on balance, that the likely benefits from the proposed conduct outweigh the likely detriments. We are concerned that the proposed conduct is likely to reduce or distort competition in a number of markets.
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 would be outweighed by detriments.”
Apple’s battle with the Australian banks has been ongoing for months now. The banks have sought access to the iPhone’s NFC so that existing mobile payment solutions could be offered in addition to Apple Pay. Apple, however, has denied this request over security concerns.
Originally, the Australian banks also argued that Apple’s fee for each transaction was too high, but they agreed to drop that argument last month and focus on making Apple Pay more open with NFC access.
Apple itself has stood firm with its position and even argued that Australian customers use Apple Pay more frequently than any other country. Apple Pay head Jennifer Bailey had the following to say on the ongoing Australia battle:
“While initially, in many markets, there have been banks that have initially been wary about working with a company as large as Apple, once they begin to work with us and understand the Apple Pay platform, they see the benefits of it.
That hasn’t fully happened with the ACCC applicants, because the conversation is happening through the ACCC process, compared to what normally happens, which is we have the conversation bilaterally.”
For competition and cartel laws in Australia, the ACCC’s decision comes as good news. As for the fate of Apple Pay in the country, we’ll just have to wait and see, but hopefully we are nearing some sort of end to the battle.