CHONGQING - A local watchdog called on Wednesday for an investigation to begin into an unauthorized Apple store found in Southwest China's Chongqing municipality.
Yan Xin, an official from the publicity department of the Chongqing Administration for Industry and Commerce, told China Daily that an unauthorized Apple store had been found in the municipality's Jiangbei district and that the administration has begun to investigate the case.
According to the Apple website, only four official Apple stores exist on the mainland: the Sanlitun and Xidan Joy City stores in Beijing, and the Pudong and Hong Kong Plaza stores in Shanghai. The situation is far different in the United States. There, 236 Apple stores sell electronics to a population that is roughly a fourth the size of China's.
Some entrepreneurs evidently thought the Chinese market could support a few more Apple outlets and were willing to test out their hypothesis without first obtaining the company's approval.
On a pedestrian street in Chongqing, a 60sq m store decorated to resemble an authorized Apple store was filled on Wednesday afternoon with about 30 shoppers, most of whom were young.
The sales staff then at work wore matching blue T-shirts bearing Apple logos. One salesman told China Daily that all of the Apple products sold inside were genuine. He even demonstrated how a shopper could use the Internet to trace the products' serial numbers.
Yin Qianyu, 21, a sophomore at Chongqing University and a fan of Apple products, told China Daily that the absence of an official Apple store in Chongqing has led him to ask friends who had trips planned to Hong Kong to buy Apple products for him while they were away.
"I bought a Macintosh last month from a local reseller," Yin said. "I hope it always runs well because getting repairs made to Apple products is really difficult for me since there are no Apple stores here in Chongqing."
In Kunming, capital of Yunnan province, authorities have closed one of the five stores they have found to be selling iPhones and iPads. The store, the authorities explained, lacked a business license.
A local authority had previously said that two of the stores were suspended for not having business licenses. But the local industrial and commercial bureau confirmed to the Shanghai Morning Post on Tuesday that one of them had in fact obtained a license on June 22 and thus could stay open.
The four stores are likely to stay in business at least until the bureau determines whether their deliberate mimicking of Apple's trademark minimalist shops constitutes an infringement of intellectual property rights.
Chen Guocang, an economic lawyer in Beijing, told China Daily on Wednesday that current laws and regulations prohibit the use of a company's brand and logo without that company's authorization.
"The existence of unauthorized Apple retail stores might promote the sales of Apple products in the short run," Chen said. "But it would make it difficult for Apple to open authorized retail stores in the future."
China Daily could not reach Apple China for comments about the unauthorized retail store issue on Wednesday.
Apple's iPads command about 60 per cent of China's tablet PC market, according to figures from the domestic IT research company Analysys International. The company has predicted that it will sell 4.5 million tablet PCs in China this year.