Meituan, ByteDance pledge to comply with China's antitrust laws

The pledges were issued a day after Beijing gave the companies a month to conduct internal reviews and comply with government guidelines.
The pledges were issued a day after Beijing gave the companies a month to conduct internal reviews and comply with government guidelines.PHOTOS: REUTERS

BEIJING (BLOOMBERG) - Meituan, ByteDance and JD.com were among 12 Chinese tech giants that issued pledges to obey antitrust laws on Wednesday (April 14), a day after Beijing gave the companies a month to conduct internal reviews and comply with government guidelines.

Pinduoduo, Baidu and Sina Weibo were also among firms that published their commitments in a statement on the website of State Administration For Market Regulation. The antitrust watchdog had summoned 34 firms to a meeting on Tuesday, ordering them to rectify their excesses and issue pledges to operate legally.

Other firms will also issue pledges over the next three days, SAMR says, calling on the public to help monitor the companies and hold them to their word. The regulator had exhorted the tech giants to heed the example of Alibaba Group Holding, which was fined a record US$2.8 billion (S$3.75 billion) following a four-month probe into the e-commerce titan for abuses like forced exclusivity.

Meituan said in its pledge it will "consciously maintain market order" and "won't force merchants to 'pick one of two' through unreasonable means". The food delivery leader offered to actively work with regulators and said it accepted social supervision.

Other e-commerce operators including JD.com, Suning.com and Vipshop Holdings also committed to not engage in forced exclusivity, a practice that the SAMR had criticised for “flagrantly” trampling and destroying market order. Pinduoduo and Dingdong Maicai - major players in the red-hot community e-commerce sector - also pledged to stay away from improper pricing.

ByteDance, owner of hit apps like TikTok and Douyin, issued a 13-point pledge that included promises to strengthen its compliance management and avoid violations such as abuses of market power and unlawful mergers and acquisitions.

Meituan gained nearly 4 per cent and JD.com rose more than 2 per cent in Hong Kong on Wednesday, recovering some of their losses from earlier this week.

China’s wide-ranging campaign against its tech leaders has erased billions in value from the sector since November, when new laws on fintech and antitrust were introduced and regulators launched an offensive against Jack Ma’s empire, including the scuttling of Ant Group’s US$35 billion initial public offering.

The 34 firms must undergo complete rectification after conducting internal checks and inspections over the next month, and make a pledge to society to obey rules and laws, the antitrust watchdog said in its statement Tuesday. Regulators will organise follow-up inspections and companies that continue to engage in abuses will be dealt with severely.