The Australian banks going head to head with Apple over its Apple Pay platform have hit back at suggestions by the tech giant that they want to collectively negotiate on the platform’s terms to get additional fees out of their customers.
“Apple's statement that the application is fundamentally about an objection to the fees that Apple wish to be given rather than NFC [near field communication] access, is incorrect and unsupported,” a representative for the banks said in a statement.
“The application has never been about preventing Apple Pay from coming to Australia or reducing competition between wallets. It has always been about providing real choice and real competition for consumers and facilitating innovation and investment in the digital wallet functionality available to Australians.”
The comments follow a submission by Apple lodged with the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) praising the competition watchdog’s draft ruling proposing to deny a request by a group of some of Australia’s largest banks to collectively negotiate with Apple on the terms of the Apple Pay platform.
In its submission, Apple suggested that the attempt by the local banks to collectively negotiate on Apple Pay terms could be viewed as a sort of “Trojan Horse” manoeuvre used to normalise the public’s acceptance of new mobile payment fees.
“Apple has been puzzled by the applicant banks’ logically inconsistent argument that they wish to have the ability to charge consumers per transaction fees for using Apple Pay, but are unlikely to be able to do so owing to competition from other issuers like ANZ who do not,” Apple said in its submission.
“Perhaps the explanation might be that it is perceived by the applicant banks as a way of introducing and then proliferating a new revenue stream in the digital payments age."
Now, the banks have reiterated their previous claim that their fight to form an authorised cartel to negotiate on Apple Pay terms is about competition in the local contactless payments market.
“Our application remains focused on providing Australian consumers with real choice and better outcomes for mobile payments, mobile wallets, and a range of other potentially NFC-powered functions such as public transport, airlines, store loyalty and rewards programs, and many more applications yet to be developed,” payments specialist and spokesperson on behalf of the banks, Lance Blockley, said.
“This is about the future of mobile payments in Australia. Will it be ‘Apple's way or no way’, or a genuine level playing field so all consumers can have the best digital services, no matter what device they own."
The latest war of words follows months of lobbying on the part of the Commonwealth Bank of Australia (CBA), Westpac, National Australia Bank (NAB), Bendigo and Adelaide Bank for permission from the ACCC to essentially form an authorised cartel to negotiate terms on the Apple Pay platform, which gives iPhone owners the ability to use their phones for contactless payments.
The ACCC released its draft ruling on the proposed cartel authorisation last year, with ACCC chairman, Rod Sims, saying at the time that, “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 currently uncertain and may be limited”.