Contactless payment

Apple Pay ruling hits innovation: Westpac

Stuart Condie
(Australian Associated Press)

Westpac believes the competition watchdog is suppressing innovation by backing Apple’s block on banks’ contactless payment apps on iPhones.

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission last week denied Westpac, Commonwealth Bank, National Australia Bank, and Bendigo and Adelaide Bank permission to collectively bargain with Apple over its policy of restricting access to its Apple Pay contactless technology.

While the regulator said opening up near-field communication (NFC) tech on Apple devices to banks – allowing iPhone users to make payments using banks’ own mobile wallets – could hamper innovation in mobile payments, Westpac chief information officer Dave Curran says the opposite is true.

“Retailers are in that space, financial services are in that space, most people you talk to are in that space: so it’s not like Westpac trying to protect something; we’re saying it should be open,” Mr Curran said on Wednesday.

“It’s a platform we all use, that we’ve used for a long period of time, so why are we closing it?”

The ACCC said opening up NFC on Apple devices to rival mobile wallets could increase competition, but said it could also hamper innovation by pushing its development in a particular direction.

It also said the closed-shop model was an important differentiator between Apple and its fellow Californian tech giant Google.

“Phones are platforms and people learn to use them, so to say that NFC isn’t open doesn’t make sense to me,” Mr Curran said.

“As the CIO of a bank, that doesn’t makes sense: it needs to be open so we can innovate on it.”

ANZ is the only one of the big four banks to have signed up for Apple Pay, arguing that it is acting in customers’ interest by giving them a service they want.

Mr Curran said Westpac was open to working with Apple, with a major caveat.

“When we’re talking about things like NFC, that’s a platform that we need to all develop on,” Mr Curran said.

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