App Store deletions lead to legal claims from dozens of developers in China

Updated 2017-09-11 10:00:49 Global Times

Apple's App Store has been accused by a law firm in Chengdu, Southwest China's Sichuan Province of deleting developers' apps. This is the second such case: another law firm in Beijing previously filed a complaint with the Chinese authorities, the Financial Times reported on Thursday.

Liu Naihao, a counsel at Sichuan Fa Ye Law Firm, told the Global Times on Sunday that so far the firm is representing 22 developers regarding 31 apps that were deleted from the App Store. From June to August, the developers were notified regarding the deletions via e-mail.

On behalf of the developers in Southwest China, Fa Ye Law Firm filed a complaint earlier this month with the bureau of the State Administration for Industry and Commerce (SAIC) that deals with monopolistic or anti-competitive behavior, Liu said. The bureau is verifying documents, Liu said, and it will take time to get any feedback.

The App Store recently gave official feedback to the law firm, saying that Apple will comply with the laws in China and treat all developers equally. If there's any doubt among developers, they can communicate through the appeal process, Liu noted.

On August 3, ASO100, a technology research firm based in Beijing, published a post on its website, saying that Apple had imposed new penalties, declined some new apps and moved to use a verification cycle of longer than one week. The post was referring to "Guideline 4.3 - Design - Spam".

Developers get e-mail notification if verification is prolonged or if all apps under their accounts are delayed by the verification process.

Xu Yun, counsel with Sichuan Fa Ye Law Firm, told the Global Times that most of the apps his team is representing now have something to do with guideline 4.3. Some of these apps have been in operation for months or years, providing service to tens of thousands of users.

There may be other questions for Apple to answer.

Lin Wei, a managing partner with Dare & Sure, told the Global Times on Sunday that his firm is already representing 43 developers regarding 51 apps. A case has been filed with the SAIC and the National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC). SAIC has confirmed receiving the filing and will conduct necessary investigations.

Dare & Sure, a law firm based in Beijing, also made filings claiming excessively high prices for gaming and live-broadcasting apps, as well as developers' complaints on general bills and refusal-to-deal, according to updates Lin sent to the Global Times.

The firm is also conducting a mobile app market analysis with experts in both economics and intellectual property rights. From perspectives such as taxation and cross-border delivery, the firm is questioning whether Apple is compliant with China's Internet regulations, Lin noted.

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