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REFILE-UPDATE 1-China issues new anti-monopoly rules targeting its tech giants

·2 min read

(Corrects links to stories in paragraphs 2 and 10)

BEIJING, Feb 7 (Reuters) - China's market regulator releasednew anti-monopoly guidelines on Sunday that target internetplatforms, tightening existing restrictions faced by thecountry's tech giants.

The new rules formalise an earlier anti-monopoly draft lawreleased in November and clarify a series of monopolisticpractices that regulators plan to crack down on.

The guidelines are expected to put new pressure on thecountry's leading internet services, including e-commerce sitessuch as Alibaba Group's Taobao and Tmall marketplacesor JD.com. They will also cover payment services likeAnt Group's Alipay or Tencent Holding's WeChat Pay.

The rules, issued by the State Administration for MarketRegulation (SAMR) on its website, bar companies from a range ofbehaviour, including forcing merchants to choose between thecountry's top internet players, a long-time practice in themarket.

SAMR said the latest guidelines would "stop monopolisticbehaviours in the platform economy and protect fair competitionin the market."

The notice also said it will stop companies from pricefixing, restricting technologies and using data and algorithmsto manipulate the market.

In a Q&A accompanying the notice, SAMR said reports ofinternet-related anti-monopoly behaviour had been increasing,and that it was facing challenges regulating the industry.

"The behaviour is more concealed, the use of data,algorithms, platform rules and so on make it more difficult todiscover and determine what are monopoly agreements," it said.

China has in recent months started to tighten scrutiny ofits tech giants, reversing a once laissez-faire approach.

In December, regulators launched an antitrust investigationinto Alibaba Group following the dramatic suspension of the $37billion initial public offering plan of its payment affiliate,Ant Group.

At the time, regulators warned the company over practicesincluding forcing merchants to sign exclusive cooperation pactsat the expense of other internet platforms.

(Reporting by Cate Cadell in Beijing and Brenda Goh inShanghai; Editing by Hugh Lawson and Susan Fenton)