ACCC makes banks wait for Apple Pay decision

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ACCC makes banks wait for Apple Pay decision

Refuses interim approval for collective negotiations.

Australia's anti-trust regulator won't grant the country's three biggest banks interim approval to collectively negotiate with Apple to gain third-party access to the NFC chips in its phones.

Australia's three biggest banks last month lodged a joint application seeking permission to negotiate as a bloc from the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC). They pushed for interim approval of their demands while the ACCC made a longer term decision.

The ACCC today refused the interim ruling, but said it could not be read as a signal for whether the full ruling, expected in October, would be successful or not.

"The ACCC has considered interim authorisation within a short time frame at the request of the applicants," ACCC chairman Rod Sims said.

"However, given the complexity of the issues and the limited time available, the ACCC has decided not to grant interim authorisation at this time. The ACCC requires more time to consult and consider the views of industry, consumers, and other interested parties."

Apple, which operates its own Apple Pay mobile wallet, does not allow third-party electronic payment apps to be loaded onto to the hugely popular smartphones. The banks are seeking to be able to negotiate jointly for access to Apple's phones without being accused of violating anti-competition law.

The three Australian banks contend that while Apple allows apps on iPhones using other features, such as wi-fi and Bluetooth, restricting the NFC technology through which mobile wallets function constitutes anti-competitive behavior.

ANZ Bank, which signed a deal to use the Apple Pay system in April, is the only 'big four' bank who hasn't joined the action. The country's second-biggest lender, Commonwealth Bank, and number three, Westpac, have joined with NAB in their camapaign against the phone giant.

A spokesman for the banks said they would continue their ongoing consultations with the ACCC until the final determination is made.

A spokeswoman for Apple in Sydney was not immediately available for comment.

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