April 24, 2024

Banks call for crackdown on Apple over claims it stockpiles UK data

Major banks have called for a crackdown on Apple over claims the tech giant’s access to millions of iPhone users’ transactions will give it an unfair advantage as it pushes further into financial services.

The Financial Conduct Authority (FCA)’s Practitioner Panel, consisting of bank and insurance executives, has written to the regulator saying there are “multiple imbalances” in how tech giants can gather and use consumer spending data.

The letter, signed by Barclays’ UK chief executive Matt Hammerstein, specifically references Apple and Amazon, warning that there is a “pressing need” to address their access to data. 

It says that Apple, which allows customers to connect their bank accounts to their iPhone’s Wallet app, will account for the majority of activity in open banking – a system paid for by major banks – by the end of this year.

It also raises concerns over Amazon and how its wealth of data on shopping habits could also give the company an advantage.

“Consistent access to information across competitors is essential for fairness in the market,” the letter said. “The ability of big tech to access private and public retail data and combine it with AI and advanced analytics may create the conditions for market dominance.

“While we have no doubt that big tech often does deliver good experiences and outcomes for their customers, they are under no obligation to do so, let alone demonstrate that, while big tech obtains these data privileges for free and have no obligations on how it is used.”

The FCA is investigating whether big tech companies enjoy unfair access to customers’ data in a way that could make them dominant in the market. It expects to report on a “call for input” by the summer.

Last year, Apple began allowing iPhone users to see their bank account transactions and balances through the Wallet app, taking advantage of the open banking protocol pushed through by regulators that allows bank accounts to be linked to other apps. 

It came after the company bought UK fintech start-up Credit Kudos for a reported $150m (£119m) in 2022.

Open banking access requires authorisation by the FCA.

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