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Apple Pay NFC tech in iPhone will likely get opened up soon in the EU

NFC in the iPhone is chiefly used for Apple Pay

The European Commission is set to approve Apple's opening up of Apple's NFC platform to third-party mobile wallets as soon as May, which could help save the iPhone maker from a $40 billion fine.

In January, Apple agreed that it would open up its NFC hardware to any developer for the purposes of performing contactless payments. Months later, it appears that European antitrust regulators are close to determining if it's enough to get Apple out of legal trouble.

The European Commission will allegedly be offering its approval of Apple's work in the near future. People familiar with the project speaking to Reuters say that the approval could happen as soon as May.

If approved it will help Apple avoid paying a hefty fine to the EU over accusations it held back rivals.

Access to avoid penalties

The European Commission has been investigating Apple Pay since 2019. At the time, it was believed Apple may have been acting in an anticompetitive manner by limiting Apple's NFC chip access to Apple Pay, ever since 2015.

The limitation meant third-party payment processors couldn't use the same hardware, and had no choice but to play ball with Apple and go through its payment system. At the time, it was thought that the lack of access meant there couldn't be true competition in NFC payments, at least on Apple hardware.

By February 2023, Apple was defending against the accusations from the Commission, all to avoid being fined. If the EU found Apple guilty of antitrust violations, it faced potentially considerable fines.

That fine, which could be up to 10% of Apple's global annual turnover, could be valued as much as $40 billion.

In January 2024, Apple announced it was making changes to iOS to comply with the inbound EU Digital Markets Act. As part of this, Apple was to introduce new APIs to use its NFC hardware, specifically aiming at banking and wallet apps operating in the European Economic Area.

This access would allow banks to avoid having to use Apple Pay or the Apple Wallet, and therefore any potential transaction charges Apple would normally apply through using its services.

Apple was asked to make some small changes after the EU received feedback from Apple Pay's competitors and customers. As Apple may still have to make more fine-tuning of its plans, report sources say that the May approval could be delayed, but the Commission is aiming for it to occur by the summer.