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Apple, Mastercard and Visa face anti-trust class action lawsuit

Apple, Mastercard and Visa are facing a class action lawsuit over allegations that they conspired to suppress competition in the market for point-of-sale payment card services.

The anti-trust lawsuit, filed by US beverage business Mirage Wine & Spirits, alleges that Apple reached agreements with Visa and then with Mastercard not to use the iPhone to establish its own independent POS network.

In return, the two schemes agreed to pay Apple a portion of transaction fees for Apple Pay payments running over their respective networks.

The lawsuit alleges that this arrangement constitutes a “very large and ongoing cash bribe”, removing any reason for Apple to build its own payment network in competition with Visa and Mastercard.

The suit further alleges that the three companies acted to deflect competition by blocking third parties from accessing the iPhone’s ‘Secure Element’, which could have been used to buiild mobile payment networks that bypassed Visa and Mastercard routing.

Earlier this week, Apple offered to open up the Apple Pay NFC system to third parties, in an effort to stave off an ongoing antitrust investigation in the European Union.