The fine equates to about 4 percent of Alibaba’s revenue in 2019, which comes amid Beijing’s unprecedented disciplinary crackdown.
Chinese regulators have fined Alibaba Group Holdings Ltd 18 billion yuan (75 2.75 billion) for violating anti-monopoly rules and abusing its dominant market position, the highest hopeless fine ever imposed in the country.
The fine, which equates to almost 4 percent of Alibaba’s revenue in 2019, came amid unprecedented crackdown on domestically developed technology companies that weighed the company’s shares over the past few months.
Alibaba’s billionaire founder Jack Ma’s business empire has come under particular scrutiny after it came under heavy criticism in late October over China’s regulatory structure.
In late December, the State Administration for Market Regulation (SAMR) of China announced the launch of a no-confidence motion against the company.
It came after authorities suspended a $ 37 billion IPO from Alibaba’s Internet finance arm, Ant Group.
SAMR said on Saturday that after an investigation launched in December, Alibaba had determined that it was “abusing market dominance” since 2015 by preventing its merchants from using other online e-commerce sites.
The practice is said to violate China’s anti-monopoly law by disrupting the free circulation of goods and violating the business interests of traders.
SAMR ordered Alibaba to make “complete amendments” to strengthen internal compliance and protect consumer rights.
“This fine will be considered by the market to close the anti-monopoly case now. It is actually the highest anti-monopoly case in China,” said Hong Hao, head of research at BOCOM International in Hong Kong.
“The market has been expecting some kind of penalty for some time … but people need to focus on actions that go beyond the anti-monopoly investigation, such as the seizure of media assets.”
Alibaba said in a statement on its official Weibo account that it had “accepted” the decision and would abide by SAMR’s rulings. It said it would also work to improve corporate compliance.
The Chinese e-commerce company said it would convene a conference on Monday to discuss the decision on the fines.
Alibaba has in the past been accused of barring competitors and sellers from listing its merchants on other e-commerce sites.
The practice of barring merchants from listing on competing sites is long overdue, and the regulator pronounces in rules issued in February that it is illegal.
“The Penalty Bill is a landmark and road sign of great importance,” wrote Xi Jianjong, a member of the State Council’s trust advisory board and professor at China’s Political Science and Law University, in the state – backed Economic Times.
“This marks the beginning of a new era of hopeless law enforcement on the Internet, and has sent a clear policy signal.”