China Criticism of Apple Yet to Sway Shoppers, Researcher Says

Attacks on Apple Inc.’s customer service by Chinese state media this month have failed to change the perception of the country’s consumers, according to a survey by China Market Research Group.

The People’s Daily newspaper, published by the the ruling Communist Party, printed a commentary today with the headline “Destroy Apple’s ‘Incomparable’ Arrogance.” It was the third consecutive day that the newspaper has carried an article criticizing the maker of iPhones and iPads. Two weeks earlier, state broadcaster China Central Television aired a report on Apple’s after-sales practices as part of its annual Consumer Rights Day programming.

Interviews that China Market Research Group conducted with 30 people since CCTV broadcast its report found consumers still hold favorable views of Apple, Shaun Rein, managing director of China Market Research Group in Shanghai, said in an interview today. The research company hasn’t worked for Apple in the past six years, he said.

“Apple is known as having some of the best customer service in China and many consumers disagree” with the state media, Rein said. “Many consumers view it as a joke and feel the People’s Daily is reaching in its criticisms.”

Apple’s sales in the greater China region for the 12 months to Dec. 29 rose 67 percent to $6.83 billion from $4.08 billion a year earlier. The region, which includes Hong Kong and Taiwan with the rest of China, accounted for 13 percent of total sales compared with 8.8 percent a year earlier.

The country’s state media may be criticizing Apple to divert attention away from pollution, food safety and other domestic problems, Rein said.

Kitty Potter, a Beijing-based spokeswoman for Apple, declined to comment on the articles in the People’s Daily. She referred to a Chinese-language statement that the company posted to consumers on its website last weekend.

Apple policies on returns and repairs in China “fully comply with the local laws and regulations,” according to the statement. “We are committed to provide the best experience for Chinese customers,” it said.

— With assistance by Edmond Lococo

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