Are Swiss Banks Boycotting Mobile Payments?

November 20, 2018         By: Steven Anderson

Mobile payments’ market growth might best be described as “intermittent” or even “uneven”. Some places are seeing huge gains, while others are stagnant and struggling to find a market niche. Potential causes run the gamut; from poor-quality mobile devices to the supremacy of cash. Now, there’s one more potential factor to consider, at least in Switzerland: active resistance from banks.

The Swiss Competition Commission (Weko) is currently running an investigation on several Swiss banks who are possibly running a complete boycott of mobile payment services offered by international providers. This includes some of the world’s most widely-known mobile payment products, including Apple Pay and Samsung Pay.

The investigation is focusing on whether or not several Swiss banks—including Credit Suisse, UBS Switzerland, PostFinance and others—have gotten together and collectively agreed not to allow their credit cards to be used with such systems. This may have been done to protect the Twint system, a mobile payments tool created by the Swiss banks.

Naturally, the accused banks are responding that the regulator’s complaints have no merit. Credit Suisse actually noted that it already offers Apple Pay and Samsung Pay through its Swisscard subsidiary, and has been in talks with both Apple and Samsung to bring more services into play. UBS Switzerland, meanwhile, had previously worked to establish an arrangement with Apple Pay.

Twint itself, meanwhile, claimed that its offices had been “raided” by Weko, despite the fact that it wasn’t actually under investigation to begin with. Twint had even previously filed complaints with Weko about Apple, because Apple allegedly wasn’t working to keep Twint easily available and usable on Apple devices.

Of course, the investigation will have to be resolved before we can really find out what’s going on here, but in the interim, there are some points to consider. For instance, why would banks actively work against a platform when there’s an organization like Weko in place? Additionally, it seems fairly clear that most of the banks involved here either worked with Apple or Samsung, but just didn’t get anywhere.

It seems like too much risk for not much payoff to actively plot against Apple et al in Switzerland, so it seems a safe bet the Weko investigation won’t find much. Still, you never know, so the investigation will have to carry on.