Chinese data cable maker sues Apple for ‘unfair competition’
A Shenzhen-based electronics parts maker has filed a lawsuit against Apple, claiming that a mandatory certification programme from the Cupertino, California-based technology giant is a form of “unfair competition” in the data cable market.
Pisen, known for its electronics accessories like data cables, power plugs and power banks, said on its official Weibo account that the Beijing Intellectual Property Court has already accepted the lawsuit.
The Shenzhen-based company is demanding that Apple stop its “unfair” trade practices and is seeking 1 yuan as nominal compensation for economic losses.
Pisen said Apple’s MFi mandatory certification does not make products safer, but has damaged fair competition in China’s electronic components market, according to a statement.
Apple’s MFi programme, short for “made for iPod/iPhone/iPad”, is a profitable business for the US tech giant which charges high fees to certify that third-party electronic accessories will work with its products.
Damages to Apple products arising from the use of uncertified cables are not covered by the US company’s after-sale policies.
In its filing to the court, Pisen said Apple has repeatedly filed complaints to e-commerce platforms in China claiming that Pisen infringed Apple design patents obtained in Europe, which resulted in the removal of Pisen products from these platforms.
Apple has rejected Pisen’s application for MFi certification “many times” without providing reasons, according to Pisen.
“Apple is one of the greatest companies in the world. But great companies should not do things that are harmful to the interests of consumers,” Pisen chairman Zhao Guocheng said in a statement.
Apple is not the only company that adopts certification programmes for third-party firms or authorised brands, but it is normal practice in the tech industry, said Zhao Ziming, a Beijing-based industry analyst.
“It is common for mid-and-small Chinese accessories makers not to join the MFi programme as the cost for certification is very high, but it is rarely seen for big companies like Pisen which has frequently applied but has failed to obtain certification,” Zhao told the South China Morning Post, adding that he was puzzled as to why Pisen has not been successful in gaining certification.
Pisen, reportedly the second-largest data cable maker in China, is a popular brand on the mainland because of its low price compared with certified products sold via Apple’s official channels.
On its Tmall online shop, a Pisen standard data cable for Apple products is priced at 24 yuan (US$3.60) inclusive of postage, with sales of more than 60,000 units in August alone. The company said it offers a refund without any reason within 30 days of purchase and a free replacement within a year if there are product quality issues.
Most data cables made by Chinese manufacturers with Apple’s MFi certification are priced at 40 yuan or above.
On the official online Apple Store, the price of a standard data cable for the iPhone starts from 149 yuan, while a MFi certified Belkin data cable costs 228 yuan.
Apple said it has not responded to the lawsuit filed by Pisen.