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  • Thierry Spanjaard

Apple Pay under European Commission investigation

Even though NFC had been developed from its inception as an open technology allowing multiple third party developers to propose applications and usages, it has now been obvious for years that implementations are not as open as expected.

With the “Pays,” essentially Apple Pay and Android Pay, the need for a whole ecosystem has emerged: tokenization services have been set up and handset vendors have included security aboard their devices in the form of a Secure Element or a TEE (Trusted Execution Environment, such as Arm TrustZone or Samsung Knox); at Apple this security feature is called a Secure Enclave.

Territorial enclaves are causing issues in Europe as well as everywhere else… Similarly, the European Commission has opened an antitrust investigation against Apple for not allowing third party NFC payment applications on its devices. The Commission investigation is two-fold: it covers Apple’s Terms and Conditions that, according to the EC, would reduce consumer’s choice and innovation and the fact that Apple Pay is the only mobile payment solution that may access iPhone/iPad NFC technology. The Commission will investigate these matters and also how Apple may restrict competitor’s access to Apple Pay. The European Commission investigations come only a few months after the German parliament passed a law that would require Apple to make its NFC technology available to third-party developers.

A striking difference between iOS and Android environments is the openness of the system, hence the ability for third parties to develop applications using various handset peripherals. Apple keeps on claiming that tighter controls on access to iPhone/iPad peripherals makes its environment more secure than Google’s Android.

In addition, Apple Pay may be on the verge of some evolutions, as, according to AppleInsider, Apple could include QR codes as an alternative to NFC for completing transactions. Supporting QR Codes could be a hint for a major evolution of Apple Pay towards more interoperability with other systems, in a similar manner to Alipay or WeChat.

Opening Apple Pay to third parties may also have important consequences in transport by allowing Apple users to complete transactions with Mifare or FeliCa technologies, making it a more universal payment means.

If we anticipate a more open Apple Pay in Europe, will it remain as secure as it is now? Will it remain compatible with the versions used in other world regions? With the cases of TikTok or Facebook, the world of apps is becoming increasingly divided. China and Russia already have their set of preferred apps that are different from the Western world. In the near future Europe and the US may end up having a totally different set of apps.

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