China issues record antitrust fine: SAMR sheds further light on its position towards the online sector

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On 10 April 2021, the State Administration for Market Regulation (SAMR) issued a landmark decision, penalising the Chinese e-commerce group Alibaba for abusing its dominant position. The Chinese authority imposed a record fine of RMB18.228 billion (USD2.8bn) on Alibaba for preventing merchants who sold their products on its online platform from dealing with other competing platforms (Decision).

The Decision is a turning point for antitrust enforcement in China: it marks SAMR’s first major antitrust decision in recent years, and the highest fine that SAMR has ever imposed on any company. It signals SAMR’s (and other Chinese authorities’) increased scrutiny and recent drive to increase enforcement activity in the online sector. Setting aside the symbolic significance, SAMR has set a precedent for future enforcement actions in the online sector going forward.