It has been a bit of a mystery as to why more of the rumored iPhone distribution partners in China are not yet selling iPhones … Mystery solved thanks to Ms. Lin of iPhoneLocalizer.com who forwarded me an article published yesterday on Sina.com. The article loses much in translation, but here are the key points:
Despite apparently reaching agreements with China Unicom to offer iPhones, several important (major) distribution partners received letters from China Mobile admonishing them not to sell iPhones. The precise wording of these letters is unknown, but this is more than just a suggestion. The Sina.com article states (translated)
Many cell phone distributors received formal notification that “Selling iPhones is not recommended,” or “Selling iPhones is not allowed or China Mobile will fine you or stop cooperation with you.”
The distributors that received the China Mobile notice include: Gome, Suning, Zoomflight, Dixintong (D-Phone), Tongwanbao, Kinfic. The China Mobile letter further warns these distributors to NOT display iPhones nor any iPhone related marketing materials.
Does China Mobile have any legal grounds to stand on in this cease and desist attempt? Quite possibly. The China Mobile letter further states:
Any social channel that signed a contract with us (China Mobile) is not allowed to engage and process related business for our competitors, is not allowed to display and sell competitors’ products, is not allowed to market or recommend competitors’ products in any form.
I did see several China Mobile services centers inside Suning Stores. Perhaps this is one example of the prior business relationships that Suning has with China Mobile that (according to legal agreements) may preclude them from selling iPhones?
It was interesting to see that Carrefour and Best Buy were not on China Mobile’s “warning letter” list. Both were selling iPhones in Beijing.