Ap­ple faces an­titrust com­plaint on apps

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - FRONT PAGE - By OUYANG SHIJIA and MA SI

Ap­ple Inc is fac­ing an an­titrust com­plaint in China af­ter a law firm rep­re­sent­ing dozens of Chinese app de­vel­op­ers filed a case to reg­u­la­tors, al­leg­ing that the United States tech gi­ant is mis­us­ing its mar­ket dom­i­nance to mis­treat lo­cal de­vel­op­ers.

The case is the first time that Ap­ple has been ac­cused of mo­nop­o­lis­tic and an­ti­com­pet­i­tive be­hav­iors in China, its big­gest source of app rev­enue.

The Bei­jing-based law firm Dare & Sure, which rep­re­sents 28 app de­vel­op­ers, said it has lodged of­fi­cial com­plaints with the Na­tional De­vel­op­ment and Re­form Com­mis­sion and the State Ad­min­is­tra­tion for In­dus­try and Com­merce, the coun­try’s top two reg­u­la­tors, al­leg­ing that Ap­ple is abus­ing its con­trol of the iOS app store to treat Chinese de­vel­op­ers un­fairly.

“It is ban­ning their apps with­out rea­son­able jus­ti­fi­ca­tion and levy­ing a 30 per­cent cut of in-app pur­chases, and never seek­ing a dis­cus­sion with de­vel­op­ers,” Dare & Sure said in a state­ment.

Ap­ple re­moved nearly 60,000 Chinese apps in June, as part of a broader push to delete apps that did not meet its app store guide­lines, ac­cord­ing to data anal­y­sis plat­form ASO 100.

The US com­pany is also ac­cused of tak­ing a dif­fer­ent ap­proach on com­plaints from China than it does on those from the United States, as well as pre­vent­ing in-app pur­chases via a third-party pay­ment tool.

Ap­ple said on Thurs­day that it has com­plied with lo­cal laws and reg­u­la­tions, and that it pub­lished guide­lines that ap­ply equally to all de­vel­op­ers in ev­ery coun­try in which it op­er­ates. The com­pany also said it would con­tinue to ex­pand the lo­cal de­vel­oper re­la­tions team in China and was work­ing hard to of­fer de­vel­op­ers bet­ter ser­vices.

The NDRC and SAIC did

not im­me­di­ately re­spond to re­quests for com­ment.

Ap­ple is step­ping up ef­forts to boost rev­enue from ser­vices, af­ter a con­tin­u­ing de­cline in its smart­phone sales in the coun­try. China gained the top spot for iOS App Store sales in 2016 and the coun­try’s iOS rev­enue hit more than $2 bil­lion in the fourth quar­ter of last year.

He Jing, an an­titrust lawyer at Bei­jing-based An­jie Law Firm, said Ap­ple’s dom­i­nant role in its own iOS op­er­at­ing sys­tem has at­tracted lots of crit­i­cism for ac­tion such as re­mov­ing apps from the App Store.

“But mul­ti­ple play­ers are run­ning their own ver­sions of app stores. The key is whether Ap­ple will be con­sid­ered to have a dom­i­nant mar­ket po­si­tion in the rel­e­vant mar­ket. Ap­ple will def­i­nitely deny that, such as claim­ing the rel­e­vant mar­ket should at least re­fer to all smart­phone ap­pli­ca­tion stores, in which it would not have a dom­i­nant mar­ket po­si­tion.”

Li Yi, chief re­searcher at the in­ter­net re­search cen­ter of the Shang­hai Academy of So­cial Sciences, said app store rev­enue is of in­creas­ing im­por­tance to Ap­ple. The dis­pute is very likely to be set­tled af­ter pri­vate dis­cus­sions, Li said.

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