User Sues Chinese Streaming Giant iQiyi for Curbing Access
iQiyi, one of China’s largest video streaming services, is being sued by a user who claimed that the company limited his screencasting access despite having a subscription to its membership service.
The video streaming giant, which airs the hugely popular TV Series “The Knockout,” was taken to court on Jan. 29 after a user named Zhu Yuan claimed the company unilaterally changed his membership service contract without his consent.
Zhu, who called himself an “old fan,” subscribed to the membership service in 2017, and requested no other civil compensation apart from the removal of the restriction that prohibited him from casting his screen at higher resolutions, according to domestic outlet Modern Express.
In a statement Wednesday iQiyi said they’ve been notified of the lawsuit and would “proceed cautiously based on the principle of respecting the law, contract, and consumer rights.”
The lawsuit comes amid mounting public dissatisfaction towards the platform in the past few weeks. Many have complained that the platform only allowed them to project their screen at any resolution if they upgraded their membership. The upgrade costs 110 yuan ($16) more based on the annual plan.
The complaints have since garnered the attention of the Shanghai Consumer Council, a regional consumer rights watchdog, which claimed the platform had no right to intervene in the use of screen casting, citing it as a “normal use case scenario” for mobile users.
According to the paid membership agreement, last updated on Nov. 9, the platform, referring to users projecting their screen, said that “membership benefits can’t be enjoyed on other end devices to which they don’t apply.”
Bi Xiaoxun, a partner at Beijing-based Sino Pro Law Firm specializing in contract disputes, told Sixth Tone that iQiyi’s restrictions are illegal if the act constitutes a change without mutual consent.
“Users can seek compensation based on the contract or ask the platform to stick to the original terms if it is ruled that there was a violation,” said Bi.
The controversy comes at a time when the company is increasingly reliant on its membership service for revenue, which it hopes will offset its long-standing operational losses. Such methods include launching different membership tiers. The company raised its rates most recently last December to 25 yuan per month — a 60% hike compared to three years ago.
The company was at the center of another storm in 2019 for other profit-seeking measures. Then, iQiyi was punished for launching a service enabling members to watch unreleased episodes, which a court deemed to be a violation of consumer rights.
Incidentally, iQiyi is not the first company in China to restrict screencasting access. Last July, one of its main rivals, Youku, also scrapped a mirroring service from its basic membership plan, and asked users to sign up to a more premium package for such a feature.
(Header image: IC)