Possible Apple antitrust complaint being investigated in China

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Apple Store
The mural outside the Hengzhou Apple store in China.
Photo: Apple

China has confirmed that it is reviewing a possible antitrust complaint against Apple for allegedly abusing its market position in the country.

The complaint, from 28 Chinese developers, claims Apple charged excessive fees (the company’s usual 30 percent) and also removed apps from its App Store without providing a full explanation.

While the Chinese regulators at the country’s State Administration for Industry and Commerce are not formally investigating Apple, should they decide there is a case worth pursuing, an investigation could follow.

“The App Store team works to review more than 100,000 apps every week from around the world, and are proud that most submissions in China are reviewed and approved to be on the store within 48 hours, or less,” Apple told CNBC. “If an app is rejected or removed for violating App Store guidelines there is an escalation process for all developers to ask for another review of their situation and assistance getting their app quickly back on the store.”

No details have yet been announced about which developers are involved in the suit, or which apps they feel have been unfairly affected. The suit was filed earlier this month.

Challenges in China

While Apple CEO Tim Cook has been outspoken about how he believes China is Apple’s future biggest market (it already is for apps), the company’s plight in China has not always been easy.

In the past, Apple has been ordered to shut down the iBookstore and iTunes Movies in China, as well as been forced to accept the Chinese government’s demands that it run network safety evaluations on all Apple products before they can be imported into the country.

Certain Chinese developers aren’t the only people upset about the cut of developer profits that Apple takes. Recently, Tim Sweeney, CEO of Epic Games, blasted companies which take a 30 percent cut of apps sold in their online stores as parasitic.

“MasterCard, Visa and other companies that handle transactions take 2 percent or 3 percent of the revenue,” he said. “So they’re pocketing a huge amount of profit from your order – and they aren’t really doing much to help us anymore.”