A Chinese Apple user has sued the American tech giant over its higher prices for apps and services compared with Android marketplaces, citing China’s antitrust law, local media reported on Wednesday.

Why it matters: China has recently tightened regulations on tech companies’ anti-competitive practices. While those moves mainly targeting local firms, the suit may thrust Apple into the spotlight.

  • Firms that have been fined or investigated in recent months include Alibaba and affiliates of Tencent and logistics giant SF Express.

Details: Jin Xin, an Apple user has accused the company of “abusing its market dominant position” for charging developers high commissions, and barring users from using payment methods other than Apple’s in-app purchase feature, local newspaper Southern Metropolis Daily reported Wednesday.

  • Jin, whose gender and age were not disclosed, said in a court filing that pricing for apps and services like video-streaming app iQiyi, podcast app Himalaya, and music app NetEase Music are higher in Apple’s App Store than in Android app stores. 
  • The plaintiff said that was because Apple charges app developers commissions as high as 30% of sales, which were ultimately transferred to consumers.
  • Users cannot choose payment methods other than Apple’s in-app payment so that they have to accept higher prices, Jin said.
  • Citing China’s Anti-Monopoly Law, the plaintiff said in the court filing that those practices were “anti-competitive behavior” and had deprived users of their rights of fair trade, according to the report.
  • The Shanghai Intellectual Property Court will hear the case, said the report, but the hearing date is not finalized.
  • Jin could not be reached for comment. Apple did not respond to a request for comment on Wednesday.

Context: China has recently formalized new antitrust guidelines targeting tech companies, which forbid online platforms from forcing merchants into exclusivity deals, and offering different prices based on user data.

  • State Administration for Market Regulation (SAMR), China’s top antitrust watchdog, in January 2020 proposed an overhaul of the country’s Anti-Monopoly Law to include internet-based services in the scope of antitrust regulations.

Wei Sheng

Wei Sheng is a Beijing-based reporter covering hardware, smartphone, and telecommunications, along with regulations and policies related to the China tech scene. Before joining TechNode, he wrote about...