Australia's big banks team up to challenge Apple on mobile payment apps

Wed Jul 27, 2016 1:24am EDT
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By Matt Siegel

SYDNEY (Reuters) - Australia's three biggest banks, including no. 1 lender National Australia Bank (NAB) (NAB.AX: Quote), on Wednesday said they had lodged a joint application with anti-trust regulators seeking approval to collectively negotiate with Apple Inc (AAPL.O: Quote) to install their own electronic payments applications on iPhones.

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 themselves being accused of violating anti-competition law.

The move escalates a power struggle between Australia's dominant lenders and Apple on financial technology, a growing force in shaping global retail banks' strategy. The three banks have resisted signing deals to use Apple Pay and want iPhone users to be able to install the electronic wallet systems they have already developed and financed themselves.

A spokeswoman for Apple in Australia wasn't immediately available to comment on the move by the banks. For Apple, the payments app offers a potentially lucrative new stream of revenue from services and software as iPhone sales retreat - on Tuesday it reported a 15 percent drop in sale of the device.

The country's second-biggest lender, Commonwealth Bank of Australia (CBA.AX: Quote), and number three, Westpac Banking Corp (WBC.AX: Quote), teamed up with NAB to file the application with the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC). The big three have been joined in the move by smaller lender Bendigo and Adelaide Bank (BEN.AX: Quote).

The ACCC declined to comment on the application.

The spokesman for the bloc of lenders, Lance Blockley, Senior Advisor at banking industry group Novantas, said the move is the first challenge by banks to Apple on mobile payments restrictions of which it's aware.

While Apple rival Samsung Electronics Co 00590.KS and Alphabet Inc's (GOOGL.O: Quote) Google have developed proprietary payments systems known as Samsung Pay and Android Pay, Samsung smartphones and other Android handsets accept third-party mobile payment apps.   Continued...

A National Australia Bank (NAB) logo is pictured on an automated teller machine (ATM) in central Sydney September 12, 2014.   REUTERS/David Gray/File Photo