Apple (AAPL) - Get Apple Inc. Report won an important regulatory battle on Friday in Australia, where four banks wanted to bargain with the tech giant in order to use its Apple Pay technology to create their own mobile payment services.
The country's competition watchdog denied the banks' request, which could set a global trend to deny other banks the option to create their own contactless payment options for both iPhone and Apple Watch users.
"It will have global implications," the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) chairman Rod Sims told Reuters. As of now, none of Apple's 3,500 bank partners have access to Apple's contactless payment technology and this ruling could make sure it stays that way.
The banks wanted access to the technology for two reasons: so they didn't have to pay a fee to Apple to get become a bank partner with Apple Pay and in order to increase user engagement on their own branded apps. But on Friday, Sims said that if companies relied too much on Apply Pay technology, then that could hurt innovation in the mobile payments sector.
Sims also noted that he was worried that allowing the banks to use Apple's payment technology would make Apple too much like Alphabet's (GOOGL) - Get Alphabet Inc. Class A Report Google, creator of the Android smartphone software that is a direct competitor to the iPhone. Apple is known for not allowing any players access to its operating system, whereas Android is generally open source.
"First, Apple and Android compete for consumers providing distinct business models," Sims said. "If the applicants are successful in obtaining NFC [near field communication] access, this would affect Apple's current integrated hardware-software strategy for mobile payments and operating systems more generally, thereby impacting how Apple competes with Google."
The banks were disappointed in the decision with the banks' spokesman Lance Blockley claiming that Apple wanted to own the entire mobile wallet in order to increase its services revenue.
Apple Pay is grouped into the company's Services Business, which brought in about $25.5 billion in revenue for the full year, or about 12% of the company's revenue (second only to the iPhone segment). Apple CEO Tim Cook said on the company's first-quarter earnings call in January that it wants to double its services business by 2020, implying revenue of $48 billion to $50 billion, according to a note from RBC Capital analyst Amit Daryanani in March.
While Apple doesn't break out Apply Pay revenue from the Services revenue, Loup Ventures founder Gene Munster doesn't see it accounting for more than 1% of the services revenue in the coming years. That would bring Apple Pay's revenue to a maximum of just $255 million for 2016 and a maximum of about $500 million if its hits the $50 billion Services revenue mark by 2020.
Apple is less concerned about the revenue chunk that Apple Pay provides the company and more about being a "great feature for our customers," Cook told Munster during an earnings call last summer.
Last week, Loup Ventures released a note estimating that 13% of the 680 million iPhones in use today have activated Apple Pay and 30% of new iPhones are activating Apple Pay. In addition, Apple noted that Apple Pay transactions were up almost 500% year over year for the September 2016 quarter.
The four Australian banks, including Bendigo and Adelaide Bank, Commonwealth Bank of Australia, National Australia Bank and Westpac Bank, first submitted their request for a negotiation with Apple to the ACCC last July. In August, Apple responded, claiming that the banks' request was filled with "factual and legal misstatements" and that it would not negotiate with any bank when it came to its Apple Pay technology. That same month, the ACCC denied the four banks an interim authorization to negotiate with Apple. In addition, the ACCC issued a draft response to the four banks that denied their request.