Several weeks ago I reported the move by three of Australia’s big four banks to get approval from the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission to act together in negotiations with “Third Party Wallet” providers for access to their payment systems. Today, the ACCC decided not to grant an interim Authorisation to the banks and will now give it full consideration over the coming month.
What’s telling though, is the submissions that have been received. Seven have been published on the ACCC Website. Three were against the ACCC granting the authority to the banks to act as a cartel in negotiations, four were in favour of it.
Of those four, three were payment systems companies, one was a bank – all very clearly with vested interests.
The three who were against it, in my view – much more compelling. Apple of course, they weren’t keen – of course. More on that shortly.
But the South Australian Small Business Commissioner and a good old average Aussie named Richard Thorek had lots to say.
The South Australian Small Business Commissioner John Chapman makes the point that “In my view, this is simply a case whereby powerful banks are simply not used to having to accede to another, more powerful organisation -Apple – a global company that has the smarts and the resources to be able to simply ignore the banks’ demands.”
Spot on sir. Spot on.
He goes on to say “Commentators have noted that it is by no means clear whether Apple will even consider entering negotiations with the banks if the ACCC grant the Interim Authorisation. The prospect of collective boycott mechanisms is unlikely to be welcomed by the world’s largest company. Put simply, the Authorisation sought by the Applicants might backfire on the Applicants – perhaps in a spectacular way. “
Mr Thorek makes it very clear in his submission that he sees no benefit to Consumers. He also questions parts of the Banks’ submissions too relating to the on-boarding process. But perhaps most telling – Mr Thorek welcomes competition, and choice – and reminds the ACCC that he can use his choice by moving to another provider.
Then it’s over to Apple.
Statements like “Apple has struggled to negotiate agreements with the Australian banks….” going on to say “based on their limited understanding of the offering, the applicants perceive Apple Pay as a competitive threat. These banks want to maintain complete control over their customers.”
What’s most telling to me from Apple’s submission is this line “The applicants rely on innuendo and misstatements to support their application. Most have little direct insight into Apple Pay or Apple’s Terms” – going on to cite the fact that one of the banks even refused to enter into a confidentiality agreement with Apple to allow for preliminary discussions about the terms!
Apple’s Marj Demmer labels any boycott among competitor banks as a cartel – and calls it a “hard-core breach of the Competition and Consumer Act”
Yes, I welcome the ACCC’s decision not to grant an interim authorisation to the banks – but most importantly, we hope the ACCC seek to represent the interests of consumers, not the banks, when making a more formal decision on the application from the banks.
Reading the submissions from the banks, and payment operators does not make it clear why they aren’t supporting Apple Pay for consumers – if it’s simple for consumers, safe and secure for consumers, then there’s no reason not to deploy it for consumers. I’m with John Chapman on this one, the South Australian Small Business Commissioner – This whole thing can easily backfire on the banks – spectacularly.