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Australian banks denied interim approval to negotiate over Apple Pay

An Australian antitrust regulator on Friday temporarily denied a request from the country's three largest banks to collectively negotiate with Apple over the installation of third-party digital wallet software on iPhones.

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission noted that the interim ruling has little bearing on a full decision currently scheduled for October, Reuters reports. Commonwealth Bank of Australia, National Australia Bank and Westpac Banking Corp in July lodged a request for interim authorization from the ACCC as it awaits a formal ruling.

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

The banks are collectively looking to negotiate terms under which Apple would allow installation of third-party digital wallet apps onto iPhone hardware, a process that requires access to the handset's NFC technology. Citing consumer safety, Apple restricts touchless NFC payments technology to its own in-house Apple Pay solution on all compatible devices. This limitation amounts to anticompetitive behavior, the banks argue.

In a response to the ACCC earlier this month, Apple said the banks' request to negotiate comes down to competition.

"Unfortunately, and based on their limited understanding of the offering, the [banks] perceive Apple Pay as a competitive threat," Apple said. "These banks want to maintain complete control over their customers. The present application is only the latest tactic employed by these competing banks to blunt Apple's entry into the Australian market."

All three banks pushing for access to iPhone's NFC tech have not yet signed on to offer Apple Pay to their customers. ANZ, the only big-four Australian bank to break rank and ink a deal with Apple, saw a 20 percent increase in online credit card and deposit account applications after rolling out Apple Pay support.