Apple beats off banks' bid for access to iPhones' NFC chips

For now, anyway, as Australian regulator says it needs time to ponder a complex matter

Apple has had a partial win in its attempt to prevent banks using iPhones' NFC chips for payment services other than Apple Pay.

Four Australian banks applied to local regulators to bargain with Apple as a cartel. Apple argued against their application by claiming iThings' security would be badly compromised by allowing third-party access to their NFC chips. Apple also took a swipe at the four banks, arguing they're not really interested in opening the iPhone to competition but are instead trying to defend lucrative credit card businesses and pointing out that one of the four hadn't even signed the confidentiality agreement that would allow it to view Apple Pay's terms and conditions.

Australia's Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) has now ruled on the banks' application and decided it needs more time to ponder the matter.

ACCC chairman Rod Sims said “the complexity of the issues and the limited time available” make it inadvisable to make a rapid decision.

The four banks - Bendigo and Adelaide Bank, Commonwealth Bank, NAB and Westpac - have issued a statement in which they offer no comment on the ACCC's decision but say they "will continue to be in consultation" with the regulator.

The four also point out that their application to negotiate as one has found favour from another bank and a pair of third-party payment companies.

The ACCC's Sims said the Commission will deliver a draft decision by October 2016, before embarking on public consultation. The ACCC usually reaches a final decision five to six months after receiving an application. The four banks' bid arrived in late July and Australia basically goes to the beach for a month in late December, so Vulture South imagines we'll get a decision either a week or two before Christmas or a month later.

Australia's regulators and courts are well-regarded worldwide, so the reasoning expressed in the ACCC's eventual decision will be noted by other regulators around the world. ®

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