China’s antitrust regulators on Saturday slapped a record fine of 18.2 billion yuan ($2.8 billion) on one of the country’s largest e-commerce giant, Alibaba Group Holding Limited after concluding that it had been behaving like a monopoly.
The decision comes after a probe into the tech giant was ordered in December 2020 over its monopolistic practices and abusing its dominant market position for several years.
The State Administration for Market Regulation (SAMR) said it had found that Alibaba had been “abusing market dominance” since 2015 by preventing its merchants from selling products on rival e-commerce platforms — a practice known as “choosing one from two.”
The practice, which the SAMR has previously pointed out as illegal, violates China’s antimonopoly law and suppresses competition in the country’s online retail market. It also hampers the free circulation of goods and infringes on the businesses of merchants on the platforms and the legitimate rights and interests of consumers, the regulator added.
Besides imposing the fine, which is the highest ever antitrust penalty around the world, the regulator ordered Alibaba to make “thorough rectifications,” including strengthening internal controls, upholding fair competition, protecting businesses on its platform and consumers’ rights.
The company will be required to carry out a comprehensive revamp of its operations and submit a “self-examination compliance report” to the authority for the next three years.
“This penalty will be viewed as a closure to the anti-monopoly case for now by the market. It’s indeed the highest-profile anti-monopoly case in China,” said Hong Hao, head of research BOCOM International in Hong Kong.
“The market has been anticipating some sort of penalty for some time … but people need to pay attention to the measures beyond the anti-monopoly investigation.”
Alibaba in an open letter published on Saturday said that it had fully cooperated with the SAMR investigation and accepted the penalty “with sincerity and will ensure our compliance with determination.”
“Alibaba would not have achieved our growth without sound government regulation and service, and the critical oversight, tolerance, and support from all of our constituencies have been crucial to our development. For this, we are full of gratitude and respect,” it added. “It is not lost on us that today’s society has new expectations for platform companies, as we must assume more responsibilities as part of the nation’s economic and social development.”
The imposing of a $2.8 billion fine on Alibaba saw the company’s share jump by 8% on Monday.