Meituan’s suspected monopoly is filed for investigation, the platform’s economic anti-monopoly supervision releases a clear signal

Break winner-take-all

  On April 26, the State Administration for Market Supervision and Administration announced that, according to the report, a case was filed for suspected monopolistic behavior such as "choosing one of two" against Meituan.

On the same day, Meituan responded that it would actively cooperate with regulatory investigations to further improve the level of business compliance management, protect the legitimate rights and interests of users and all parties, promote the long-term and healthy development of the industry, and earnestly fulfill social responsibilities.

  The Central Economic Work Conference held at the end of last year made “strengthening anti-monopoly and preventing the disorderly expansion of capital” as one of the key tasks to be grasped this year.

Since the beginning of this year, from the ninth meeting of the Central Finance and Economics Commission to study the issue of promoting the healthy development of the platform economy, to the release of the Anti-Monopoly Guidelines of the Anti-Monopoly Commission of the State Council on the Platform Economy, to the platform companies such as Meituan being interviewed or even interviewed for suspected monopoly Penalties, anti-monopoly issues in the field of platform economy have attracted great attention from all walks of life.

  Why must we attach great importance to anti-monopoly issues in the field of platform economy?

Why do we need anti-monopoly in the field of platform economy?

What changes will antitrust bring to platform companies and the public?

  1 Anti-monopoly and anti-unfair competition are important measures to ensure the healthy and sustainable development of the platform economy

  In recent years, with the rapid development of my country’s economy and Internet technology, the platform economy coordinated by the Internet platform to organize resource allocation has expanded rapidly, and online shopping and car-hailing have gradually become a part of daily life. The ties are getting closer, which promotes convenient and efficient production and life, and fuels the real economy.

  The platform economy is a new thing and a new business format spawned by new technology.

Since the 18th National Congress of the Communist Party of China, my country has vigorously strengthened the top-level design and system deployment of Internet platform development, promoted the deep integration of platform economy and real economy development, formulated and implemented development strategies such as "Internet +" and big data, and improved the resources of the whole society. Allocation efficiency has promoted the transformation and upgrading of technology and industry, and expanded new areas of national governance.

  Data shows that in 2020, my country's Internet platform service companies will achieve business revenue of 428.9 billion yuan, a year-on-year increase of 14.8%, accounting for 33.4% of Internet business revenue.

Among them, companies that focus on online education services have accelerated their growth due to repeated epidemics and other factors, and their business income has grown rapidly; online sales methods such as live streaming and social group buying have continued to be active; mainly providing manufacturing and production logistics platform services Corporate income continued to grow rapidly.

The booming Internet platform is playing an increasingly prominent role in promoting economic transformation and providing convenience for people's lives.

  Entering a new stage of development, the state continues to release the signal to promote the healthy and sustainable development of the platform economy.

  The “14th Five-Year Plan” adopted by the Fifth Plenary Session of the Nineteenth Central Committee of the Communist Party of China and the 2035 long-term goals proposed to “promote the healthy development of the platform economy and the sharing economy”, “improve the fair competition review mechanism, and strengthen anti-monopoly and anti-unfair competition” Enforce justice and enhance the comprehensive market supervision capabilities."

  Both the Politburo meeting of the CPC Central Committee and the Central Economic Work Conference held in December last year emphasized "strengthening anti-monopoly and preventing the disorderly expansion of capital", and the Central Economic Work Conference took it as one of the eight key tasks to be implemented.

  The Central Political and Legal Work Conference held in January this year mentioned in the section “Building a Rule of Law Engine for the Construction of a New Development Pattern” that it focused on building a market-oriented legalized international business environment, promoting the improvement of relevant laws and regulations, severely punishing related crimes in accordance with the law, and strengthening anti-countermeasures. Monopoly and anti-unfair competition law enforcement justice.

  On March 15 this year, General Secretary Xi Jinping emphasized at the ninth meeting of the Central Committee of Finance and Economics that my country’s platform economy is at a critical period. It is necessary to focus on the long-term, take into account the current situation, make up for shortcomings, strengthen weaknesses, create an innovative environment, and solve Highlight contradictions and problems, and promote the healthy and sustainable development of the platform economy.

  "China's platform economy is at the forefront of the world, and it is inseparable from our great era of reform and opening up. It benefits from a series of policies and measures adopted by the Party Central Committee to encourage the development of private economy and support innovation and entrepreneurship." Deputy Secretary, New Era Party Building Research Center, Chinese Academy of Social Sciences Chang Tian Kun told reporters that anti-monopoly and anti-unfair competition are decisions and arrangements made by the Party Central Committee, and are the inherent requirements for improving the socialist market economic system and promoting high-quality development.

  2 Choose one of the two, pinpoint mergers and acquisitions, and big data. Many problems are exposed in the rapid development of the platform economy

  "Refused to "choose one of the two" and was run on, I ended up closing my own shop." "I increased the commission ratio if I didn't agree with the word. I can't escape the Meituan exclusive agreement." "The commission ratio is too high and I haven't chosen it yet. Dare to be angry but dare not speak"...In fact, before Meituan was filed for investigation, the Internet had already exposed and criticized Meituan's alleged monopolistic behavior such as "choosing one of two".

  "Choose one between the two" refers to the platform taking advantage of its dominant position and the merchant's reliance on it, and using improper means to force the operator to choose one of the two platforms.

In April of this year, the Huai’an Intermediate People’s Court in Jiangsu Province disclosed a judgment that Meituan, which has the right to speak in the takeaway market, used to increase rates, set rest services, set unreasonable restrictions on trading conditions, and hinder merchants and their competitors. "Are you hungry?" deals to crowd out competition.

In the end, the case was identified as an unfair competition infringement case in the takeaway field.

  "Choose one out of two" does not only exist in the food delivery field.

In recent years, Internet platforms that provide online shopping for goods or services have forced "choosing one over the other" by signing unreasonable agreements with merchants and other means. The media has repeatedly appeared in the media to oppose the monopoly of Internet platforms.

  Professor Xue Jun, deputy dean of Peking University Law School, believes that Internet competition has broken the boundaries of time and space. Once the e-commerce platform is in a monopoly position, its ability to dominate small and medium-sized business operators will become very strong.

"When an e-commerce platform abuses its dominant position in the market, such as forcing businesses to engage in a'two-choice' stand, small and medium businesses often dare not say anything, because they will have nowhere to go if they leave the platform. This requires laws and regulations to be followed up. Monopolistic behavior has touched the red line of supervision. Small and medium businesses can report and litigate, and there will be laws for penalties for monopolistic behavior."

  Abuse of market dominance, implement "tip-and-mergers", burn money to seize the "community group buying" market, implement "big data", ignore counterfeiting, information leakage, implement tax-related violations... this series of serious illnesses and new diseases , Which hinders the healthy and sustainable development of platform economic norms.

  "Platform economy anti-monopoly is the general trend." Liu Ying, a researcher at the Chongyang Institute of Finance of Renmin University of China and director of the cooperative research department, told reporters that as a product of the digital economy era, platform companies have grown rapidly, and more and more monopolistic behaviors have been controversial. , Whether in Europe, America or China, all countries are strengthening legislation and law enforcement to curb the new type of monopoly created by the platform economy.

  3 Preventing and stopping monopolistic behavior in the platform economy has become the consensus of major global economies

  As a new thing, Internet economic governance is a new issue faced by all countries in the world.

Opposing platform monopoly has gradually become the consensus of major global economies.

  In October 2020, the U.S. House of Representatives Judiciary Committee determined that four technology giants, Amazon, Apple, Facebook, and Google, used their monopoly positions to suppress competitors and suppress industry innovation, and recommended that the U.S. Congress conduct a comprehensive reform of antitrust laws to adapt to the Internet era. Variety.

Subsequently, the US government and 48 states and regions filed antitrust lawsuits against Facebook, and the US Department of Justice and the multi-state prosecutors' consortium filed antitrust lawsuits against Google.

  In December 2020, the European Union issued the "Digital Services Act" (DSA) and "Digital Market Act" (DMA) proposals.

The European Commission stated that the new rules will better protect consumers' basic rights on the Internet and bring a fairer and more open digital market for everyone.

  "Compared with the traditional fields, the platform economy field has more difficulties for anti-monopoly." said Yun Yanhui, a researcher at the Institute of Industrial Policy of China Electronics Information Industry Development Research Institute.

  What is the difficulty of platform economy anti-monopoly?

The platform economy has a natural monopoly. Once it is scaled up, it will erect higher barriers to entry and increase the difficulty of entering the market. There will be a situation where the strong will always be strong and the winner takes all.

  "Observing whether the anti-monopoly law is applicable to the platform economy is based on the natural monopoly of the platform, to see whether it has used its monopoly position to conduct irregular competition and other behaviors. This process involves, for example, the definition of market scope, market substitutability, and abuse. The determination of market dominance behaviors, etc., are all difficult points in conducting anti-monopoly investigations on the platform economy.” said Li Mingtao, director of the China International Electronic Commerce Center Research Institute of the Ministry of Commerce.

  Platform-based companies involve many industries, a wide range of users, the greater the network effect, the greater the stickiness, the higher the user's conversion cost, and the easier it is to be dominated.

"In the process of determining whether a platform company has a dominant market position, other indicators can be used in addition to market share. The actual judgment is very complicated and professional, which also increases the difficulty of the investigation of the case." Yun Yanhui said.

  For the platform, the primary manifestation of its monopoly is data monopoly.

The platform collects a large amount of consumer-related data during its operation, and after one collection, it can be used multiple times at zero cost.

In the process of data use, new data will also be generated to strengthen the monopoly advantage of the platform.

Experts pointed out that under the advantages of existing data, the platform can extend its business to related fields. The cross-market use of data will bring new economies of scope and form a new monopoly in this field.

  Shi Jianzhong, vice president of China University of Political Science and Law, believes that data behavior is behind the behavior of platform companies, and data rights are behind the data behavior. At present, it is urgent to deepen the understanding of data rights itself.

  With the development of a new generation of information technology, the application of algorithms has become popular and even indispensable.

Platforms treat algorithms as core business secrets. For regulators, platform algorithms are equivalent to a black box.

Relevant experts said that this has led to technical difficulties in identifying and collecting evidence during the anti-monopoly law enforcement process.

  4 Intensively promulgate a series of supporting policies and take multiple measures to promote the healthy development of the platform economy

  Objectively speaking, due to the complex business model and competitive ecology, wide coverage, and strong professionalism, platform economic supervision has problems such as untimely response and insufficient comprehensiveness.

In the view of Li Yongjian, a researcher at the Institute of Finance and Economics of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, the new phenomenon of platform monopoly should be comprehensively managed by law, policy, technology and other means.

  Data is the cornerstone of platform monopoly.

In this regard, Li Yongjian suggested that my country can refer to the EU's data portability regulations, combined with the sensitivity of data in various industries, data desensitization, data availability requirements, etc., to guide the classification and classification of data assets, and establish and improve legislation on data circulation. , Standardize data circulation behavior.

  Regarding the data behavior of platform companies, Yun Yanhui believes that the state should enhance the ability to use digital supervision technology, strengthen the understanding and identification of digital technology, and improve the application capacity of supervision technology.

"Anti-monopoly law enforcement agencies should take the initiative to intervene in investigations and, under legal authorization, prevent risks in advance. Strengthen the construction of law enforcement teams, and strengthen the training of the quality and professional capabilities of law enforcement personnel in practice."

  For a period of time, relevant departments have intensively introduced a series of supporting policies around the platform economy, actively responding to the needs of consumers, operators and other parties, demonstrating the government's determination to regulate platform operators' anti-competitive behavior.

  In February of this year, the Anti-Monopoly Commission of the State Council issued the Anti-Monopoly Guidelines of the Anti-Monopoly Commission of the State Council on the Platform Economy Field, which carried out targeted and systematic regulations on the monopoly of the platform economy.

  "In general, the release of the "Guide" provides more detailed guidelines for competition in the Internet platform economy in China, increases the openness, certainty, and operability of anti-monopoly law enforcement in the platform economy, and makes China's platform economy. China’s anti-monopoly compliance has been converged with internationally accepted rules, principles, and ideas.” Huang Yong, director of the Competition Law Center of the University of International Business and Economics and a member of the State Council’s Anti-Monopoly Committee Expert Advisory Group, said that this is conducive to reducing the cooperation of platform-based enterprises. Cost regulation is also conducive to creating a good environment for innovation, competition and development for the promotion of platform-based enterprises’ international competitiveness.

  On April 22, the Supreme People’s Court issued the "People’s Courts’ Intellectual Property Judicial Protection Plan (2021-2025)", clarifying that the people’s courts will strengthen anti-monopoly and anti-unfair competition law trials during the "14th Five-Year Plan" period, and increase the The intensity of punishment for infringement of intellectual property rights.

  "The anti-monopoly law is the basic law to protect fair competition, stop monopolistic behavior, and maintain market economic order." The Vice President of the Intellectual Property Court of the Supreme People's Court, Yun Zhonglin, said that the people's courts will actively and steadily handle monopoly cases in the next step. At the same time of trial work, support and supervise anti-monopoly administrative law enforcement in accordance with the law.

  It is worth noting that, as the top priority of the anti-monopoly legal system, the anti-monopoly law is also being amended intensively.

According to Li Fei, a member of the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress and chairman of the Constitution and Law Committee, the revision of the anti-monopoly law this year has been included in the work schedule. These tasks are aimed at accelerating the creation of a market-oriented, legalized, and internationalized business environment and strengthening the drive for innovation. Development provides a solid guarantee of the rule of law.

  Innovative prosperity requires an effective competition mechanism and fair competition order.

The field of platform economy is not outside the anti-monopoly law. The more mature and innovative the platform economy, the more scientific and effective anti-monopoly law enforcement is needed.

By strengthening anti-monopoly supervision, effectively reducing market entry barriers, forming an open and inclusive development environment, stimulating the innovation and creativity of market players, and promoting the healthy and sustainable development of the platform economy.

(Our reporter Xue Peng and Li Yunshu)