China proposes rules to punish illegal e-commerce pricing

China‘s market regulator issued draft rules on Friday to punish illegal pricing activities, including heavy subsidies and the practice by online platforms of charging different prices based on customers’ purchasing behaviour.

The rules are the latest in an effort by the State Administration for Market Regulation (SAMR) to rein in China‘s free-wheeling platform economy, which has seen it levy fines, launch investigations and issue warnings to booming e-commerce giants.

“The pricing practices have been widespread among online platforms and it is a hidden problem to ordinary consumers because it’s not very easy to notice,” said Lu Zhenwang, chief executive officer of Shanghai-based Wanqing Consultancy.

Consumers over the years have complained on social media that e-commerce platforms don’t charge the same price for the same offerings.

Among the practices banned in the rules proposed on Friday are subsidies that cut the price of a product to below cost.

Violation of the rules could incur a fine of 0.1% to 0.5% of a business’ annual sales or even suspension of operations, SAMR said.

In an April meeting with the market regulator in the southern metropolis of Guangzhou, platform companies including JD.com, Meituan, Alibaba’s food delivery arm Ele.me, Trip.com and Didi Chuxing pledged not to take advantage of big data to charge loyal customers more.

In March, state news agency Xinhua reported that Alibaba’s online travel agency Fliggy offered different ticket prices for the same flight, with more loyal users getting a higher price. In the same article, Xinhua said Meituan charged different prices for the same pet care product.

Alibaba and Meituan did not immediately respond to requests for comment from Reuters on Friday.

In October, the Ministry of Culture and Tourism imposed a rule banning the practice of differentiated pricing by online travel services.

In April, SAMR fined Alibaba a record 18 billion yuan ($2.78 billion) for abuse of its dominant market position and announced an antitrust investigation into Meituan.

Reuters

Singapore Reporter/s

In Singapore, we are looking to double our reporting team by this year-end to comprehensively cover the fast-moving world of funded startups and VC, PE & M&A deals. We want reporters who can tell our readers what is really happening in these sectors and why it matters to markets, companies and consumers. The ability to write precisely and urgently is crucial for these roles. Ideal candidates must have to ability to work in a collaborative, dynamic, and fast-changing environment. We want our new hires to be digitally savvy and ready to experiment with new forms of storytelling. Most importantly, we are looking for hard-hitting reporters who work well in a team. Collaboration and collegiality are a must.

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Following vacancies can be applied for (only in Singapore).   

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Singapore Reporter/s

In Singapore, we are looking to double our reporting team by this year-end to comprehensively cover the fast-moving world of funded startups and VC, PE & M&A deals. We want reporters who can tell our readers what is really happening in these sectors and why it matters to markets, companies and consumers. The ability to write precisely and urgently is crucial for these roles. Ideal candidates must have to ability to work in a collaborative, dynamic, and fast-changing environment. We want our new hires to be digitally savvy and ready to experiment with new forms of storytelling. Most importantly, we are looking for hard-hitting reporters who work well in a team. Collaboration and collegiality are a must.

Following vacancies can be applied for (only in Singapore).

Following vacancies can be applied for (only in Singapore).   

  • A reporter to track companies/startups that have raised private capital, and have the potential to become unicorns. SEA currently has over 40 companies with a valuation of over $100 million and under $1 billion.
  • A reporter who can get behind the scenes and reveal how funding rounds are put together, or why they’ve failed to materialise. She/he in this role will largely focus on long-format stories. 
  • A journalist to track special situations funds, distressed debt and private credit (from the PE angle) across Asia.