Photos taken by blogger BirdAbroad inside an unauthorized Apple store in China. (Bird Abroad)

The Chinese government has launched an investigation into electronics stores in the town of Kunming, including an unauthorized Apple store that appeared to be so real that customers who had purchased products at the fake retailer returned to chastise the store’s staff and demand a refund. Meanwhile, the owner has defended his store, saying that, while the storefront is unauthorized, the products are real.

The Associated Press reports that Chinese officials found 5 fake Apple stores in Kunming alone, and ordered two of the stores to suspend business while they are being investigated. The remaining three stores were allowed to continue operating, since officials were said to have found no fake Apple products for sale.

The investigation, which will be broader than just the unauthorized Apple retailer, will center around the business licenses, permits of brand use and purchasing channels for each store, according to China’s state-run Xinhua news agency, which cited a worker within the city’s industrial and commercial department.

The Wall Street Journal reports that the owner, who would only give his surname, “Li,” said government officials had been to his store Saturday and Sunday, which was originally photographed by blogger BirdAbroad. Li went on to say that the officials did not find his store to be in violation of the law, but that a formal announcement of the investigation results would be delivered next week. It remains to be seen whether the investigation was prompted by the numerous reports on the fake storefront, or if it is being conducted at the behest of Apple.

Li continued to defend his store’s products, acknowledging that while the store front was unauthorized, the products were real. However, he declined to say who supplied his merchandise. “I am sure we will become their authorized reseller in the near future,” Li told The Wall Street Journal, “After all, we invested a lot in this store.”

Xinhua also reports Monday that Apple is planning a third, larger Shanghai store in addition to “dozens of other stores throughout China.”

(The Wall Street Journal, Xinhua news agency)

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