The Shanghai Market Regulation Bureau (SMRB) recently issued a penalty decision addressed to Eastman (China) Investment Management Co, Ltd, a Chinese subsidiary of US Chemical firm Eastman Chemical Company. Since this is the first antitrust enforcement decision to be issued by the SMRB since its establishment, it has drawn significant attention from commentators who have attempted to identify the bureau's enforcement approach.
Although still fairly new, the State Administration for Market Regulation (SAMR) diligently investigated and penalised monopolistic behaviour in 2018, publishing a dozen cases alongside its local enforcement agencies which attracted media attention. Notably, livelihood-related industries (including the pharmaceutical industry) and trade associations appeared to come under the SAMR's spotlight.
The National People's Congress recently passed and published revisions to the Anti-unfair Competition Law. The revisions focus primarily on trade secret infringement, as trade secrets are regarded as one of the core competitive advantages in today's business world. The main amendments include widening the definition of 'infringer', increasing penalties for infringement and alleviating the burden of proof for plaintiffs.
The refusal of the Chinese antitrust authority to green light the Qualcomm/NXP merger garnered significant attention and shone a spotlight on China's merger review practice, particularly with regard to the chip industry. This article provides an overview of Chinese merger control by examining the major chip industry mergers that the former Ministry of Commerce and the current State Administration for Market Regulation have approved with remedies to date.
In 2018 the newly formed State Administration for Market Regulation (SAMR) maintained a rigorous and prudent attitude towards merger control review. There was a significant increase in the number of cases concluded and the efficiency with which they were done so. As regards the cases which were conditionally approved, the SAMR imposed various tailored conditions. In addition, the SAMR investigated more non-filing cases and imposed more penalties on non-filers compared with 2017.
The China Banking and Insurance Regulatory Commission was recently formally unveiled in Beijing, marking the official launch of the new regulatory authority. This merger of the former China Banking Regulatory Commission and China Insurance Regulatory Commission is the biggest reform of China's financial regulatory system in more than 15 years and marks the start of the 'one committee, one bank, two commissions' regulation framework.
The China Banking and Insurance Regulatory Commission plans to abolish two of the requirements that foreign insurance brokerage companies must meet in order to conduct business in China (ie, 30 years of business operation history and $200 million worth of total assets). If this reform takes place, domestic and foreign investors are expected to have equal status when entering the Chinese insurance brokerage market.
Ping An Insurance (Group), a relative newcomer to the insurance industry, now ranks among the world's largest and most valuable insurers. Notably, its use of technology to embrace new business models that supplement its core insurance offerings is indicative of a wider global trend of providing customers with digital, added-value services. However, in China, this evolution towards added-value ecosystem-related services and the potential advantages on offer is marked by a different set of market considerations.
Despite a range of stakeholders having vested interests in developing the private health insurance market, it has remained underdeveloped and is generally considered by Chinese insurers to be unprofitable compared with life insurance lines. Insurers have also found it hard to stimulate uptake by a consumer base that is relatively unfamiliar with the added value of such products. As such, the Chinese health insurance market is not as mature, innovative or profitable as it could be.
The China Insurance Regulatory Committee recently promulgated the new Measures for the Administration of Equity in Insurance Companies, which state that if the shareholding proportion of an insurer's foreign shareholders accounts for more than 25% of its registered capital, the relevant provisions of the measures must be applied by reference. This express inclusion of foreign-invested insurers represents a substantial shift away from current practice.
The Hangzhou Internet Court recently confirmed, for the first time, the effectiveness of evidence recorded via blockchain. Shortly after, the Supreme People's Court cemented the lower court's view by implementing the Provisions on the Trial of Cases by the Internet Courts. This is the first time that blockchain technology has been officially accepted in a judicial interpretation as a valid technical means for preserving and presenting evidence.
The Shenzhen Intermediate People's Court recently issued its judgment in the private antitrust litigation brought by domestic software company Shenzhen Micro Source Code Software Development Co Ltd (SMSCSD) against tech giant Tencent. SMSCSD had alleged that Tencent possessed a dominant position in the China mainland market for mobile instant messaging and social platform services and had abused this dominance by blocking its WeChat Official Accounts and engaging in discriminatory practices.
The Security Protection Bureau of the Ministry of Public Security, the Beijing Cyber Industry Association and Research Institute Number 3 of the Ministry of Public Security recently issued the Guidelines for the Protection of Personal Information Security on the Internet, which set out a series of measures and processes for the protection of personal information. Although the guidelines appear to be non-binding, they are likely to be treated as a statute-like norm.
Following the Chinese Central TV Station's (CCTV's) broadcast of the 3.15 programme in 2019, the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology decided to crack down on telephone harassment and strengthen the protection of personal information in the telecoms and internet sectors. The CCTV will broadcast 3.15 on 15 March each year in order to reveal company activities which infringe consumer rights and interests.
The Shanghai Consumer Council recently released the results of its assessment of 39 apps, which aimed to evaluate the level of access that they had to users' personal information. The assessment revealed that 25 apps had been over collecting users' personal information and that only 14 apps had actual service-related reasons justifying their collection of sensitive personal information.
The Shenzhen Municipality Justice Bureau recently issued draft regulations on the administration of public security video and image systems for public comment. The draft regulations aim to protect public privacy and strengthen internet information security and information sharing by prohibiting the installation of video and image recording systems in certain locations which concern public privacy. Individuals and entities which fail to comply with the regulations will be subject to fines.
The State Administration for Market Regulation recently issued a notification which aims to encourage local market regulatory departments to crack down on false and unlawful online advertising and create a positive market environment for online ads. According to the notification, local market regulatory authorities will investigate and severely penalise unlawful online ads which concern, among other things, politically sensitive, vulgar or socially influential issues.