Chinese App Developers Accuse Apple of Monopolistic Behavior
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2017-08-10 11:45:30

Chinese developers for Apple’s iOS mobile operating system have asked the government to investigate the American tech giant for possible violations of the country’s antitrust law.

Representing several anonymous app developers, Beijing-based Dare & Sure Law Firm on Monday filed a complaint with the State Administration for Industry and Commerce and the National Development and Reform Commission, local outlet Beijing Business Today reported. The developers are accusing Apple of monopolistic behavior because of how the company manages its mobile app store.

Dare & Sure represents voices from “signature clients who run apps providing music, videos, live-streaming, socializing, and downloading services,” Lin Wei, one of the firm’s lawyers, told Sixth Tone. He said they had been contacted by Apple representatives in China but added that “the directors in America who actually hold decision-making power haven’t made direct contact with us yet.”

Apple could not be reached for comment on Thursday.

According to a copy of the grievance report Dare & Sure shared with Sixth Tone, the plaintiffs believe Apple has abused its prominent market position and damaged the interests of both consumers and app developers. The document accused Apple of four anti-competitive practices.

The grievance report says Apple does not provide sufficient justification when it removes an app from its app store, and that it imposes a higher standard for Chinese developers to prove that their copyrights have been infringed upon when they request the removal of copycat apps.

In June, tens of thousands of apps were removed from the Chinese app store as part of a worldwide purge of low-quality offerings. Although many Chinese consumers reacted negatively to the move, developers welcomed it. “What Apple did then affected us small businesses positively,” Cui Yinjie, a manager at Suzhou-based game developer Leji, told Sixth Tone. “If all the illicit developers are forced out, then the rest of us can have a better environment in which to grow.”

In addition, the plaintiffs also believe Apple unjustifiably restricts access to third-party payment providers on its app store, and they question the 30-percent commission the company levies on all in-app purchases.

Dai Bin, a lawyer specializing in antitrust law at Leijie Zhanda Law Firm in Beijing, told Sixth Tone that out of the four grievances, he only agreed that Apple discriminates against Chinese developers when it comes to proving their copyrights have been violated.

Still, Dai thinks it’s likely the State Administration for Industry and Commerce will accept the case. “But [the developers] have to prove that Apple actually is dominant in the China market,” he said, adding it could take more than a year for the authorities to complete their investigation.

In July, Apple ranked fifth in China’s smartphone market. Due to slowing sales, revenue for greater China fell by 14 percent in Apple’s second fiscal quarter. The company also came under criticism in July for complying with government requests to remove from its Chinese iOS app store applications that can be used to accessed blocked websites, such as Facebook and Google.

Editor: Kevin Schoenmakers.

(Header image: A woman uses her mobile phone while passing in front of the Apple logo outside one of the company’s stores in Shanghai, July 30, 2017. Aly Song/Reuters)