Australia’s antitrust regulator failed to grant interim approval for three of the country’s largest banks to jointly negotiate access to the Apple Pay platform.
Given the complexity of the issues, the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) said it was unable to grant interim authorisation at short notice.
“The ACCC requires more time to consult and consider the views of industry, consumers, and other interested parties,” chairman Rod Sims said in a statement.
The banks involved are Commonwealth Bank of Australia, Westpac and National Australia Bank, three of the country’s four largest. They are supported by Bendigo and Adelaide Bank.
Apple had strongly opposed the banks’ request.
The regulator said it took a number of factors into account, including “the potential for continuing effects on competition in the market, the extent of urgency for the request, any possible harm to the applicants or other parties if interim authorisation is granted or denied, and possible public benefits and detriments”.
The entire ACCC authorisation process usually takes a maximum of six months, including the release of a draft decision for consultation before a final decision. The regulator expects to release its draft decision in October 2016.
“The ACCC’s decision not to grant interim authorisation at this time is not indicative of whether or not a draft or final authorisation will be granted,” Sims said.
The banks want to collectively negotiate with Apple on a range of issues, including whether they are allowed to access NFC hardware on Apple devices to enable contactless payments through their own apps.
The US company does not allow third-party payment apps, which might compete with Apple Pay, to be loaded onto its devices.
The banks argue that Apple does allows third-party apps that utilise other widely available wireless technology, such as Wi-Fi and Bluetooth, so denying NFC is inconsistent, and constitutes anti-competitive behaviour.