Chinese kitchen appliances brand Hauswirt said on Monday that it had sent a legal letter to JD after the retailer lowered the price of one of Hauswirt’s ovens “without authorization” amid intense online battles over price in the run-up to Singles’ Day. Hauswirt claims the reduction led to a dent in the company’s profits.

Why it matters: Competition over low prices in a bid to attract consumers has intensified as China’s biggest shopping extravaganza kicks off, with this case suggesting an increasingly dysfunctional and imbalanced e-commerce ecosystem.

  • While JD’s staff have claimed that the platform subsidized the oven in question to sell it below its normal price, Hangzhou-based Hauswirt has stated that they are the ones who actually incurred the loss. 

Details: Hauswirt’s home beginner oven normally retails for RMB 699 ($95.50), but this week consumers can get it on JD for RMB 319.50, a discount of more than 50%.

  • Top livestreaming influencer Li Jiaqi was also caught up in the fiasco after a WeChat screenshot, believed to have been posted by a member of JD’s sales staff, showed he had received a legal letter from Hauswirt. 
  • The poster said the appliance brand had filed a complaint against him due to the sale price of the oven on JD being lower than the price the controversial livestream star advertised during his broadcasts, thus breaching Hauswirt’s lowest-price agreement with Li.
  • The oven was set to be marketed on Li’s Taobao Live livestream on Oct. 26, according to a teaser on his official WeChat account earlier today. The post did not reveal the item’s exact price.
  • Local media outlet Jiemian cited Li Jiaqi’s agency MeiOne as saying they didn’t sign a so-called minimum price agreement with Hauswirt and that “pricing of livestreamed goods rests with the brand.” However, it is not known whether MeiOne will still require other brands they cooperate with to promise the lowest price for their products in return for exposure on Li’s livestreams, a practice they have reportedly pursued in the past.
  • As the high-profile spat continued, Hauswirt commented with three demands on JD’s official Weibo social media account on Tuesday, asking the e-commerce giant to withdraw the sale of the oven at half price, requesting that it exclude the brand’s entire product line from JD’s regular coupon offers, and urging JD to conduct an “internal review” to “rectify any unreasonable behavior.”
  • At time of writing, the oven is currently being sold at RMB 699 on JD. JD did not respond to TechNode’s requests for comment.

Context: The conflict over pricing control between e-commerce channels is growing more prominent in China’s latest online price war. On the one hand, online retailers are pursuing low prices amid a less-than-stellar consumer recovery, but on the other, this is adding pressure to merchants that have set up online stores on multiple platforms.

  • During 2021’s Singles’ Day festival, some users found that the same L’Oréal face mask product they bought via the country’s hottest livestreamers, Li Jiaqi and Viya, was more expensive than the cosmetics brand’s own livestream days later, which led the duo to publicly accuse L’Oréal of failing to deliver on its promise to offer them the lowest prices.

Cheyenne Dong is a tech reporter now based in Shanghai. She covers e-commerce and retail, AI, and blockchain. Connect with her via e-mail: cheyenne.dong[a]