European Union regulators said on Monday that Apple had broken antitrust laws by unfairly undermining companies whose payment services competed with Apple Pay, in the latest crackdown by European authorities on the world’s biggest technology companies.
Apple has abused its dominance in consumer electronics by not allowing PayPal and others access to technology in the iPhone and Apple Watch that allows people to make a purchase with a quick tap, according to a preliminary judgment announced by the European Commission. the executive body of the European Union.
The commission argues that Apple prevents rival services from gaining access to its devices’ hardware and software that enable interaction with payment terminals in stores, known as near-field communication technology, or NFC.
The case illustrates Europe’s strategy of using various types of actions to regulate the digital economy. In addition to antitrust cases, the European Union has agreed to two new laws since March aimed at tackling what lawmakers see as anti-competitive business practices and weak policies by internet and social media companies to remove illicit content from their websites and services.
The charges against Apple, following an investigation that began in 2020, were announced in Brussels on Monday by Margrethe Vestager, the European Commission’s executive vice president in charge of antitrust enforcement. Apple will have a chance to respond before a final judgment is announced. The company could be fined up to 10 percent of its global revenue. It could also strike a deal with regulators.
Regulators said Apple had used its control of the iPhone and other products to become the dominant service in the fast-growing area of mobile payments.
“Mobile payments play a rapidly growing role in our digital economy,” Ms. Vestager said in a statement. “We have indications that Apple restricted third-party access to key technology needed to develop rival mobile wallet solutions on Apple devices.”
On Monday, Apple said it provided an “easy and secure” way to make payments and that its policies did not restrict competition.
“Apple Pay is just one of many options available to European consumers for making payments, and has ensured equal access to NFC while setting industry-leading standards for privacy and security,” the statement said.
“We will continue to work with the commission to ensure that European consumers have access to the payment option of their choice in a secure environment,” Apple said.
European regulators have been trying to tackle what they see as abusive business practices by big tech companies that use their dominance in one area to take control of adjacent markets. Last year, Ms. Vestager brought antitrust charges against Apple in response to complaints from Spotify and others about the company’s 30 percent commission on in-app purchases, a case that is still under review.
Google has been fined billions of euros for using its search engine dominance, Android mobile operating system and advertising services to unseat rivals. Amazon is under investigation for claims it abuses the domain of its shopping service to harm merchants who rely on its website to reach customers. Facebook is also under investigation, accused of anti-competitive practices related to its control of the social media market.
Europe’s tough approach to tech regulation found little echo in the United States for a long time, but US authorities have begun to use antitrust enforcement to curtail the power of big tech companies. The Justice Department has filed antitrust charges against Google and the Federal Trade Commission is going after Facebook.