Apple is yet again facing scrutiny for what some say are anti-competitive practices related to its iOS App Store policies. The debate over the company’s 30% cut of in-app purchases has long frustrated developers around the world. This has even been true in China, where the policy has pitted it against health care providers and local tech behemoth Tencent. The flashpoint this time around was the email app Hey from developer Basecamp. Apple rejected an update for Hey because it didn’t offer a way to pay within the app, which would give Apple a cut of the revenue. This reignited a debate about Apple’s power over developers, with competitor Microsoft piling on by calling for regulators to take a closer look at app store policies. The EU has also opened antitrust investigations into Apple’s App Store rules. It seems no matter where Apple goes, it faces similar complaints. That’s certainly true in China, where Apple continues to enjoy an avid fan base while also facing disgruntled developers. In 2017, a Chinese law firm representing 28 local developers filed a complaint against Apple. The plaintiffs alleged Apple abused its market power and violated China’s Anti-Monopoly Law by removing apps without proper explanations and levying heavy fees. It’s not clear how Chinese authorities addressed the complaint. Lin Wei, the managing partner at Beijing’s Dare & Sure Law Firm who led the complaint, didn’t respond to our questions about the case. Last year, Chinese developers behind apps that offer online medical consultation services also protested the so-called “Apple tax.” The app makers argued that it was wrong for Apple to take a cut of what they charge users to connect with doctors online or over the phone. Apple said it never actually charged the apps and, after a review, determined they should not be charged under its current policies. But perhaps the biggest opposition Apple faced to its App Store policies in China came from Tencent, the company behind the super app WeChat that seemingly every Chinese netizen uses to manage their digital lives. The app’s functions and reach have become so extensive that some people say it resembles an operating system. WeChat, the app that does everything Millions of public accounts and mini programs on WeChat publish articles and offer a variety of services like shopping, hailing cabs, live streaming and online classes. WeChat users spent 800 billion yuan (US$115 billion) in 2019 through its 2.4 million mini programs , which have more than 300 million daily active users. The fact that users rarely ever need to leave the app to do everything they need has made some consider WeChat a threat to Apple’s iOS revenues . Apple has repeatedly tried to impose its rules on WeChat, leading to a series of conflicts between the two. The latest event in this ongoing saga came on May 29, when WeChat published a notice telling public account operators that it’s banning transactions for virtual goods and services in accordance with Apple’s App Store guidelines. Apple doesn’t take a cut of revenue for physical goods, but it does for any virtual goods like online classes, audio and video content and online membership services. So companies offering such products through their own public WeChat accounts will have to stop selling to iOS users. This follows a similar decision in 2018, when WeChat banned transactions for virtual goods and services in mini programs on iOS. Mini Programs: The apps inside apps that make WeChat so powerful This doesn’t necessarily mean virtual goods on WeChat are gone forever for iPhone users. Matthew Brennan, a speaker and writer on Chinese mobile tech, says that small businesses in China are typically good at coming up with workarounds to avoid restrictions like this. “Perhaps a transaction that might have previously run through an official account would become a personal P2P transaction,” Brennan said. Duanshu, a company that offers technology solutions for online content and education startups, suggested in a WeChat article that public account operators could remove the account payment links and put in QR codes that direct users to a group chat. Then users could directly transfer money, which doesn’t incur a fee from Apple. Of course all this means extra steps for users. And with each additional step, more users become less likely to pay, hurting business. “When the gods fight, ordinary people suffer,” Duanshu said in the article. Social media users remain divided over whether Tencent or Apple is to blame for policy changes. Some condemn Apple’s stringent in-app purchase rules, but others say Tencent shouldn’t forbid small businesses from charging iOS users just because it doesn’t want to let Apple take a cut. Brennan said he finds it strange that WeChat’s features are singled out by Apple, since WeChat isn’t the only popular app in China that offers mini programs. He also noted that WeChat’s public accounts have been used to sell virtual goods and services for years. Tencent declined to comment on the matter. Apple didn’t respond to a request for comment. While this latest feud wound up with Tencent ending a WeChat feature, Apple has compromised in the past. In 2017, WeChat disabled a popular tipping function that let readers reward content creators with cash after Apple said it violated its rules for in-app purchases. The move triggered an outcry from netizens. So Apple and Tencent reached an agreement the following year and restored the feature . The “Tipping” button became “Like the author” after the revamp, and the money is sent directly to an author’s personal WeChat Pay account without Apple taking a cut.