Android Pay and Samsung Pay are recent entrants to the mobile wallet landscape in Australia, and so too is Apple Pay. While adoption is slow, it appears that three of the ‘big four’ banks seeking permission from the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) to negotiate as a whole with these new mobile wallet vendors.
The Australian banks offer their own solutions, at least on Android, but it’s on Apple devices they’re feeling the pinch. The general feel of the application made by the Commonwealth Bank of Australia, Bendigo and Adelaide Bank, National Australia Bank and Westpac, is that are seeking access to Apple’s walled garden, at least when it comes to accessing the secure element in NFC required to launch their own mobile wallet on iOS.
The application has been made with the pretext of providing a better deal for all users in Australia, with a joint statement from banks announcing:
This is about providing Australians with real choice and better outcomes. If successful, the application would have tremendous benefits for the entire Australian mobile payments landscape including for public transport fares, airlines, ticketing, store loyalty and rewards programs and many more applications yet to be developed.
Google allows third party access to NFC in a phone using Host Card Emulation (HCE) in devices running Android 4.4 and above, while Samsung gives additional support for payments using Magnetic Secure Transmission (MST) in their Samsung Pay wallet. Apple however, has only just introduced NFC support in iOS and allows no third party access to the secure element or NFC in their devices, nor offers a solution such as HCE.
It’s this unwillingness on Apple’s part that seems to be a sticking point for the banks, who say:
Apple’s refusal to provide third-party apps with any access to the NFC functionality of its devices sets it apart from other hardware manufacturers, operating system providers and Third Party Wallet Providers such as Google, Samsung and Microsoft.
The application further goes on mentioning Apple’s willingness to allow access to other components while holding back access to the NFC function:
For example, app developers are able (with the user’s permission) to make use of the iPhone’s camera, microphone and accelerometer, its cellular, wi-fi and Bluetooth transmitters and its Touch ID fingerprint sensor, but not its NFC functionality
The application makes the case that the banks should be able to enter into a limited collective boycott of a third party mobile wallet provider while the negotiations are ongoing. This boycott could affect Android, Apple or Samsung Pay or any other vendor wanting to enter the fray.
Bendigo Bank and Westpac were both initially named as Android Pay partners when Google announced the system was coming to Australia last year. Westpac also owns St George bank, another initial launch partner who failed to jump on-board when Google launched Android Pay earlier this month. Westpac, Bendigo Bank and St George are all still listed as ‘Coming Soon’ on the Australian Android Pay partners list, so how this application affects their launch on Android Pay isn’t clear.
The application will be responded to by the ACCC at which time the next step will become more clear. Until then, make your wishes known to your bank if you have business with any of the institutions involved.