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Australian banks disappointed that Australian consumers will continue to be denied choice in mobile wallets

31 March 2017 |Innovation

A group of Australian banks is disappointed by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission’s (ACCC) decision to deny authorisation for permission to jointly negotiate over access to Apple Pay and the Near Field Communication (NFC)* function on iPhones. The ACCC previously described the decision as finely balanced.

The four banks behind the application – Bendigo and Adelaide Bank, Commonwealth Bank of Australia, National Australia Bank, and Westpac will individually review and determine their future strategy for mobile wallets and mobile payments in order to best serve their customers.  Each applicant has invested significantly in their respective mobile offerings, and will individually continue this longstanding competition against each other and offer innovations for consumers on mobile.

“This case has always been about consumer choice.  The applicants made this application to seek to ensure they could participate in the future of mobile wallets, and not have the course of development for mobile wallets in Australia dictated by a single overseas corporation,” payments specialist and spokesperson on behalf of the applicants, Lance Blockley, said.

“The application attracted strong support from many of Australia’s leading retailers and other financial institutions who also recognise the public benefits of open NFC access, and the subsequent flow on benefits for mobile wallet innovation and competition in Australia,”

“Whilst we thank the ACCC for their time and diligence in reviewing our application, and recognising both the imbalance in negotiating positions and that there were real issues for consideration, we are disappointed that the finely balanced draft determination was not tipped in the final decision, given our considerable effort to demonstrate the public benefits inherent in open NFC access, and the subsequent flow on benefits for mobile wallet innovation and competition in Australia.”

“Mobile wallets are currently overwhelmingly focussed on mobile payments, but will soon take in loyalty programs, mass transit ticketing, access, identity and a great number of other future innovations.  Ultimately there is no technical barrier standing in the way of our entire physical wallet becoming digital.  Apple has a stated desire to own the entire mobile wallet, and will use the beachhead into mobile wallets afforded to them by complete control over mobile payments on iPhone to exert control over the rest of the digital wallet.

This in our view is aimed at increasing the services revenue they can earn from iPhone users.

Australia is both one of the world’s most advanced markets for contactless and NFC payment take-up amongst consumers, as well as a leading global hub for fintech developments.  Some 80% of face to face card payments now occur via NFC in Australia. It is disappointing that unlike Android phones that offer customers choice in mobile wallet, this decision does not allow choice for iPhone users, limiting the continued innovation of mobile wallets not just by banks but retailers, mass transit organisations and even government entities in Australia.

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