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ACM launches an investigation into users’ freedom of choice regarding payment apps on smartphones

The Netherlands Authority for Consumers and Markets (ACM) has launched an investigation into payment apps’ access to NFC communication (‘Near-Field Communication’). NFC communication offers the ability to make contactless payments using smartphones in brick-and-mortar stores. The software on some smartphones only allows the software developer’s own payment app to connect to NFC communication. This problem may stifle innovation with respect to payment apps, and it reduces the freedom of choice for consumers and businesses. ACM received this signal during the market study ‘Big Tech and the Dutch payment market’, and will be investigated further.

Oversight of payment systems

ACM enforces compliance with competition rules among businesses in the financial sector. In addition, ACM enforces several rules that specifically apply to businesses in the financial sector, including banks and technical service providers. For example, ACM is also authorized to enforce parts of the Interchange Fee Regulation. This European Regulation stipulates that consumers have the right to be able to choose their method of payment in brick-and-mortar stores.

ACM will investigate whether limiting the payment apps’ access to NFC communication reduces the users’ freedom of choice. ACM may also come to the conclusion that these rules have not been violated. In that case, the investigation will be terminated. If ACM does establish a violation, it may result in a penalty, such as a fine.

ACM, competition, and innovation in the digital economy

ACM gives extra attention to the costs and benefits of the digital economy. Innovation must not be stifled, and consumers must be able to purchase products and services with confidence. Through enforcement actions, market studies, and education, ACM aims to keep the benefits of innovation in the digital economy, and to ensure that markets work well for people and businesses, now and in the future.