Rattled Chinese tech giants pledge to end unfair competition

People talk in front of a Baidu's company logo at Baidu's headquarters in Beijing January 16, 2014. — Reuters pic
People talk in front of a Baidu's company logo at Baidu's headquarters in Beijing January 16, 2014. — Reuters pic

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BEIJING, April 15 — More than 20 Chinese tech giants have made a public pact to abide by anti-monopoly guidelines, after regulators told them to note “the warning” of a record fine against e-commerce giant Alibaba.

Beijing is taking China’s tech firms to task to curtail the reach of private companies into the daily finances of the Chinese public — and, analysts say, to rein in their runaway expansion. 

In a series of individual statements published by China’s market regulator yesterday and today, some of the country’s biggest brands — including ByteDance, Baidu and CTrip — promised to “ensure fair competition”, “not abuse market dominance”, and “not implement unfair price behaviour”.

The oaths come after regulators summoned 34 tech companies on Tuesday and warned them to “rectify” any anti-competitive measures and “heed the warning of Alibaba’s case”.

The firms were given one month to undergo complete rectification after conducting internal checks, and to correct practices that harmed competition.

Ride-hailing service Didi, video platforms Kuaishou and Bilibili, as well as e-commerce firm JD.com are also among those who have since published commitments.

JD.com said it would not force the practice of “choosing one of two” on its retailers — where merchants are compelled to work only with one platform and not its rivals — a move which Alibaba had come under fire for.

Meanwhile, in its statement, Didi pledged: “Except where necessary for regular business activities, we will not illegally collect or misuse personal information.” 

The next front in Beijing’s assault on big tech could be the huge volumes of data they scoop up from China’s consumers.

On Saturday, regulators hit Alibaba with a US$2.78 billion (RM11.4 billion) penalty, after a months-long investigation found it had been abusing its dominant market position.

Alibaba and JD.com, along with messaging and gaming giant Tencent, have become hugely profitable on the back of growing Chinese digital lifestyles and government restrictions on major US competitors in the domestic market.

But as the platforms amassed hundreds of millions of regular users, concern has risen over their influence in China, where they are used for a huge array of daily tasks. — AFP

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