Apple Pay joins Facebook's Libra on the EU’s antitrust radar

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Margrethe Vestager’s iPhone has been nagging her to install Apple Pay. Now she’s checking if those prompts are a problem for other payment providers.

In an interview with Bloomberg on Friday, Vestager confirmed that regulators are taking a closer look at potential competition issues, describing alerts she’s seen to set up Apple Pay on her own handset.

“We would like to understand how you allow for a different payment system when you yourself have a payment system that is quite insistent to be installed on your phone,” Vestager said. “I still have these red dots. My phone is telling me ‘I don’t feel complete because you have not installed the Apple Pay system.’”

Big technology companies are getting intense attention from regulators over concerns they could leverage their power to march into new industries. EU officials have been seeking industry feedback on how Apple Inc. devices may favor Apple Pay over other payment solutions, weeks after they quizzed companies over how Facebook’s Libra association might curb members or squeeze rivals.

Apple declined to immediately comment on the EU inquiry, which is another potential headache for the U.S. giant as it fights a record 13 billion-euro ($14.5 billion) state aid order after regulators said Ireland allowed it to pay hardly any tax in the nation. It’s also the target of a Spotify Technology SA complaint to the EU on Apple’s music-streaming service.

While Apple customers can use other banking apps or payment options on their phone, the company has cited security concerns for restricting others’ access to so-called NFC technology for contactless payments.

Increasing competition for payments and a potential risk that some companies may be getting an unfair advantage prompted the EU’s questions on Apple and Facebook, Vestager said. She didn’t rule out checking on other providers, saying she has “a very keen interest in payment solutions no matter who proposes them.”

“Convenience can come with a very big price if it shuts down competition, because then eventually you may have to pay a higher price either in terms of money or fees or in terms of data,” Vestager said. “Payment systems is an obvious place where it is beneficial for consumers that different payment systems can work together.”

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