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Apple wins Down Under: Australia's government says the country's large banks cannot collectively bargain with Apple over terms of support for Apple Pay, ending a public battle between Apple and the banks that has lasted at least a year. The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission formally denied the Commonwealth Bank of Australia, Westpac Banking Corporation, National Australia Bank, and Bendigo and Adelaide Bank to jointly negotiate with Apple and collectively boycott Apple Pay. "The ACC is not satisfied, on balance, that the likely benefits from the proposed conduct outweigh the likely detriments," said ACCC Chairman Rod Sims in the ACCC's statement. The banks wanted authorization to pool together to bargain with Apple over access to Near Field Communication technology in the iPhone and terms to access the App Store. This would allow the banks to develop their own contactless mobile payment apps for iPhone users in competition with Apple without necessarily using Apple Pay. A loss for Apple could have encouraged collaborative negotiations among banks in other markets, particularly banks that are concerned about Apple's fees and general lack of openness with its technology. The ACCC was not expected to rule in the banks' favor, mostly because giving the country's largest banks such leverage could give the banks an advantage in other issues, such fees and rates. "We are concerned that the proposed conduct is likely to reduce or distort competition in a number of markets," said Sims in the ACCC statement. While the big banks battled the government and Apple, Apple Pay continued to make gains in Australia with other financial institutions and smaller banks. The banks jointly expressed disappointment with the government's ruling. "This case has always been about consumer choice. The applicants made this application to seek to ensure they could participate in the future of mobile wallets, and not have the course of development for mobile wallets in Australia dictated by a single overseas corporation," said Lance Blockley, a spokesperson for the banks, in a statement to the media.

Bloomberg News
Bloomberg News

Post EMV e-fraud 'gold' rush: The predictions that online payments fraud would spread following to move to chip cards in the U.S. were spot on. E-commerce fraud jumped by a third in 2016, according to Experian. The research company adds the increase follows a trend from other countries that migrated to EMV cards, including the U.K., France, Australia and Canada, which all saw sizable increases in card-not-present fraud after it became harder to counterfeit plastic cards. Experian predicts the trend will lead to expenses from deploying layered fraud protection that includes shielding transactions and information about users and their computing devices. Experian also reported 2016 was a record year for data breaches, with nearly 1,100 reported incidents in the U.S., or a 40% jump from 2015.

Tech for U.K. check images: The U.K. hired the first technology companies to work on its check imaging initiative that's expected to commence later this year. FinTech lab reports the government has hired VocaLink and BancTec to construct the system that will enable checks to move faster by allowing images to serve as formal documents, similar to Check 21 in the U.S. The Check and Credit Clearing Company will supervise the imaging initiative, which is designed to cut processing times to one day from about six days. VocaLink, which will soon become part of Mastercard after the acquisition clears U.K. regulators, will lend its processing software, while BancTec will provide archiving.

British bills may drop animal fat: The protests over the use of animal byproducts may cause the Bank of England to change the way it's constricting new bills. Finextra reports the change may lead to even more protests, since the government is considering replacing animal fat in polymer bank notes with palm oil, which is unpopular with environmentalists since refining the oil has contributed to deforestation. The Bank of England said the environmental impact could be lessened if the suppliers adhere to sustainability standards when manufacturing the bills. The manufacturers, De La Rue and Innovia Security, are investigating alternative manufacturing methods, according to Finextra.

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