Fintech Australia reckons the government should force open access to NFC

The fintech body offered the government six ways it could protect competition and innovation in mobile payments in Australia, such as requiring manufacturers to provide direct access to their NFC tech.

Fintech Australia has asked the government require manufacturers to provide direct access to near-field communication (NFC) payment technology on their devices.

Such a mandate was requested in a submission [PDF] the body representing Australia's finance technology industry made to the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Corporations and Financial Services as part of its inquiry into mobile payment and digital wallet financial services.

"The growth of digital payments encourages greater business competition and innovation, leading to the creation of more tailored products for consumers," it wrote.

"However, competition in the sector is currently at risk due to the limited number of competing mobile device manufacturers and operating system developers. The limited range of hardware and software solutions play a critical role as the overarching infrastructure for mobile payments.

"In turn, there is a risk that a lack of competition in these sectors will reduce consumer choice and business innovation, as well as increase costs for domestic innovators and startups."

It said the existing power imbalance between the technology giants and new startups was likely to impact competition and stifle innovation.

The government should support and encourage, Fintech Australia continued, the testing of alternative mobile and wallet payment solutions such as Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE), to bypass the need to access NFC modules on mobile devices.

"BLE removes the need to force hardware manufacturers to open access to their secure components. As a result, the use of BLE provides technology companies and banks with the freedom to develop their own customer experiences for mobile and digital payments without the perceived control of the hardware manufacturers, regardless of the hardware type," it said.

In addition to asking NFC tech be a free-for-all, Fintech Australia also asked that the government prevent manufacturers from placing restrictions on how payments can be processed.

It wants regulation to be introduced over the terms and pricing practices of major payment and checkout platforms; and the requirement for "fair and transparent collection of consumer data in a balanced manner that does not impact competition".

The data digital wallet providers collect, Fintech Australia believes, should also be provided to others.

"Data will be beneficial to understand competition and adoption in the sub-sector (similar to the data that AusPayNet compelled the banks to provide on credit card fraud to better understand the banking landscape)," it said. "This data should also be able to be released to the industry (where appropriate) similar to AusPayNet releasing reports on credit card fraud."

The Commonwealth Bank of Australia, Westpac, the National Australia Bank, and Bendigo and Adelaide Bank had joined forces back in 2016 to go after Apple and its control over its own NFC technology, annoyed that Apple did not allow any other entity direct access to its tech.

The group argued that access would enable them to offer their own integrated digital wallets to iPhone customers in competition with Apple's digital wallet without using Apple Pay -- something Apple wanted to avoid.

The banks lost that fight four years ago, with the ACCC handing down a determination denying authorisation.

Since then, the banks have caved and now offer their customers Apple Pay.

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