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Tuesday May 18th, 2021 6:43AM

Beijing warns fintech firms against anti-monopoly behavior

By The Associated Press
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HONG KONG (AP) — Chinese financial regulators have summoned 13 companies engaged in online finance services, including Tencent and Bytedance, and told them to strengthen anti-monopoly measures.

The regulators, which include the People’s Bank of China (PBOC) and China’s securities and banking regulators, said in a statement Thursday that they had summoned companies including Xiaomi’s fintech arm; Tencent; Bytedance; e-commerce platform JD.com’s JD Finance, and the finance arm of food delivery platform Meituan.

Regulators warned against the “disorderly expansion” of capital, part of the government's increased scrutiny of technology and internet companies that have branched into the lucrative financial services sector, offering services such as digital wallets, wealth management services and loans.

To help curb risks to China’s financial system, Beijing has in recent months ramped up scrutiny of technology companies and tightened antitrust regulations. It is drafting new laws to ensure large firms do not squeeze out competition, abuse their market positions or hurt consumer rights.

As part of their crackdown on online financial services, last year authorities abruptly halted a $34.5 billion initial public offering by Ant Group, which is affiliated with e-commerce giant Alibaba.

The statement by regulators acknowledged that online companies have contributed to improving financial services and making them more inclusive. But it said some companies are unlicensed and some engage in unfair competition and damage consumers’ legal rights.

“The online platform companies being summoned run integrated businesses on a large-scale and are influential in the sector and face typical problems. They must take the lead in seriously correcting these problems,” the statement said.

The companies were told to carry out self-inspections and rectify any problems in line with financial regulations. Financial businesses must have licenses to operate, and the expansion of payment accounts not linked to banks must be strictly controlled, the statement said.

Companies were ordered to break the information monopoly. Personal credit reporting should be done only by licensed credit reporting agencies, it said.

In April, e-commerce platform Alibaba was fined a record $2.8 billion by market regulators for breaching China’s anti-monopoly law. Earlier this week, the regulator also said it had launched an investigation into Meituan, the country’s largest food delivery platform, over suspected monopolistic behavior.

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