The European Commission announced Monday it thinks Apple is violating the bloc's antitrust rules with its limits on rival providers of mobile wallets.
The commission sent its "preliminary view" to Apple that the company "abused its dominant position" in giving a boost to its own contactless payments system. Europe alleges Apple denies competitors access to the underlying NFC technology on its devices that allows phones to connect with payments systems in physical stores, leaving Apple Pay as the only tap-to-pay wallet.
Apple told the Wall Street Journal it is "setting industry-leading standards for privacy and security” while providing would-be competitors access to the technology on the same terms as it operates. The pushback echoes Apple's defense in other antitrust cases, including those targeting its App Store: The company often insists that features that appear to create a closed ecosystem funneling consumers through its products are merely security protections.
The charges come as Europe is taking a big swing at U.S. tech giants. Monday's "statement of objections" comes almost exactly a year after complaints from the EU about Apple's handling of rival music apps, which also came amid prior antitrust cases and charges. Officials also agreed in March to new competition rules that would require major changes to the App Store and iMessage, as well as services from Google and Amazon.
In addition, the EU's targeting of Apple Pay comes as the company is reportedly getting ready to allow iPhone users to receive contactless payments through the built-in NFC technology without additional hardware. Although it would serve as a replacement for Square's dongle and other terminals for cash and credit card payments, it wouldn't directly replace the software and services that Square and others provide.