Apple has sacked a total of five employees high-up in their App Store staff in China, after it was discovered that the employees were the recipients of perks from game developers.
The employees worked in a variety of departments, including revenue guidance for devs and App Store approval. Most pertinently however, an unspecified number worked directly on selecting apps that would feature on the iOS App Store’s home page. According to The Information, these staff members benefited from free meals, nightclub visits and other perks, the inference being that such treats were in exchange for favourable treatment for certain apps.
While Apple’s internal investigation confirmed the staff members who were sacked had no influence over app approval it’s not yet clear whether they had any effect on featured apps or other ways in which an app may be selected or promoted. It goes without saying that accepting such coercion or the delivery of any special treatment to an app beyond company protocol goes strictly against Apple's App Store policy.
Too few Cooks
The sackings coincide with Tim Cook’s surprise visit to China, where he recently appeared at an in-store Honour of Kings tournament and mingled with Apple fans. Doubtless during Cook's ongoing visits to Chinese game developers the issue of strict adherence to policy and Apple's inability to be swayed or influenced will a talking point.
At a time when US and EU regulators are scrutinising Apple’s business dealings and alleged anti-competitive practices, the last thing the company needs is to draw the spotlight of Chinese authorities and regulators with the message of making continued good business as usual being their first priority.