Commonwealth Bank, Westpac, National Australia Bank (NAB), and Bendigo and Adelaide Bank sought to enter into group talks with Apple in an attempt to establish a deal that would give them access to the NFC hardware in the iPhone, allowing them to offer their already-established bank-run mobile payments services using the iPhone's NFC chip.
The four banks needed the permission of the ACCC to avoid violating anti-cartel laws, but their request has been officially denied. In a statement, ACCC chairman Rod Sims said the benefits are "uncertain" and "may be limited."
"While the ACCC accepts that the opportunity for the banks to collectively negotiate and boycott would place them in a better bargaining position with Apple, the benefits are currently uncertain and may be limited."Today's denial follows an initial denial in August, where the ACCC opted to take more time to consider the issue before granting a request that would have allowed the banks to boycott Apple Pay while negotiations took place. The ACCC has now denied the banks both interim and draft authorization, but a final ruling on the request will not come until March of 2017.
Apple vigorously opposed the initial request, stating that allowing banks to access hardware within the iPhone would compromise security, undermine customers' privacy, and harm innovation. The banks, meanwhile, claim access to NFC would give customers more choice and would have "tremendous benefits for the entire Australian mobile payments landscape."
While Apple Pay has been available in Australia since November of 2015 through partnerships with ANZ and American Express, Australia's three major banks -- Commonwealth Bank, Westpac, and National Australia Bank -- have thus far resisted signing deals with Apple to accept Apple Pay.
Recently, Apple inked a deal with Cuscal Payments Group, expanding Apple Pay to more than 30 small banks and credit unions across Australia. The agreement saw Apple Pay becoming available to four million additional Australians.