Antitrust complaint filed against Apple by Chinese developers

31 Aug 2017

Apple Store, Hong Kong. Image: Sorbis/Shutterstock

China’s state administration for industry and commerce is investigating an antitrust complaint filed by developers against Apple.

Following its July removal of VPN (virtual private network) apps from the App Store in China due to government pressure, Apple is in hot water with Chinese regulators for allegedly removing apps made by developers without valid cause, and charging high rates for in-app purchases.

Lin Wei – a lawyer at Beijing-based firm Daxiao, the team that filed the complaint in early August on behalf of a number of developers – said: “[Apple founder] Steve Jobs represented the American dream. But Apple’s unequal treatment of China’s young developers stops them from realising their China dream.

“During its localisation process, Apple has run into several antitrust issues … after an initial investigation, we consulted a number of enterprises and got a very strong response,” Lin added.

Apple has a distinct upper hand in the Chinese app market, with Google’s Play Store blocked in the country. According to Daxiao, the App Store has no legal Chinese registration, therefore it does not have the legally required licences for providing internet content.

Allegations of developer mistreatment

The company has allegedly mistreated Chinese developers and app creators, according to the complaint filed by Daxiao, favouring apps that are Apple business partners and taking down Chinese-made ones with very little evidence of developer wrongdoing.

Developers were apparently left waiting for months to get their apps reinstated, with audit results differing depending on the app. Creators also cited their annoyance at Apple’s in-app purchase policy (the company takes a 30pc cut of all IAPs), considering China’s heavy reliance on mobile payments.

These legal woes come just weeks before Apple launches the latest iteration of the iPhone, which it was hoping could help boost its market share in China, combatting increasing competition from domestic smartphone manufacturers such as Huawei.

According to Reuters, the complaint was filed early in August, and an Apple spokesperson said that it was in the process of expanding its local developer team in China.

Apple Store, Hong Kong. Image: Sorbis/Shutterstock

Ellen Tannam was a journalist with Silicon Republic, covering all manner of business and tech subjects