ACCC to question Apple regarding its ban on the Westpac Keyboard feature

Apple's decision to order Westpac Banking Corp. — an Australian bank and financial-services provider headquartered in Sydney — to disable a mobile banking feature that let customers make payments in chat apps such as WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger has caught the attention of the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) over concerns it could be attempting to remove rivals to its own upcoming service, according to The Financial Review.

Last week The Australian Financial Review revealed that Apple had written to Westpac to say its three-month old Westpac Keyboard feature would no longer be allowed on iPhones. It’s understood Apple may have security concerns about the payments, but Australian Competition and Consumer Commission chairman Rod Sims told The Financial Review he will be seeking a proper explanation from the phone maker, in order to assess if any further action is required.

This isn’t the first brouhaha involving Apple and Australia’s financial institutions. A group of Australian banks previously applied to the ACCC for permission to jointly negotiate over access to Apple Pay and the Near Field Communication (NFC)  function on iPhones.

The four banks making the application – Bendigo and Adelaide Bank, Commonwealth Bank of Australia, National Australia Bank, and Westpac – want open access to the NFC function on the iPhone. Without this, “no genuine competition in the provision of mobile wallets is possible and Apple will have a stranglehold on this strategically important future market,” they claim. The applicants flatly reject Apple’s unsupported assertions that the application is about an objection to the fees that Apple wishes to impose, rather than NFC access.

However, Apple doesn’t allow third-party electronic payment apps to be installed on the iPhone. The Cupertino, California-based company has criticized the banks for  for attempting to stop or delay the roll-out of Apple Pay in the country. In its latest submission to the Australian Competition & Consumer Commission, the Cupertino, California-based company said it was concerned banks are seeking to “delay the expansion of Apple Pay,” hurting both consumers and smaller card issuers who could use the technology.