The National People's Congress recently passed and published revisions to the Anti-unfair Competition Law. The revisions focus primarily on trade secret infringement, as trade secrets are regarded as one of the core competitive advantages in today's business world. The main amendments include widening the definition of 'infringer', increasing penalties for infringement and alleviating the burden of proof for plaintiffs.
The refusal of the Chinese antitrust authority to green light the Qualcomm/NXP merger garnered significant attention and shone a spotlight on China's merger review practice, particularly with regard to the chip industry. This article provides an overview of Chinese merger control by examining the major chip industry mergers that the former Ministry of Commerce and the current State Administration for Market Regulation have approved with remedies to date.
In 2018 the newly formed State Administration for Market Regulation (SAMR) maintained a rigorous and prudent attitude towards merger control review. There was a significant increase in the number of cases concluded and the efficiency with which they were done so. As regards the cases which were conditionally approved, the SAMR imposed various tailored conditions. In addition, the SAMR investigated more non-filing cases and imposed more penalties on non-filers compared with 2017.
China reached a number of Anti-monopoly Law enforcement and development milestones in 2018. For example, the newly established State Administration for Market Regulation completed the consolidation of the country's former government antitrust agencies and amended a number of Anti-monopoly Law regulations. Although this institutional reform took a significant amount of time, public enforcement remained active. In addition, there were a number of private antitrust enforcement developments.
The newly established State Administration for Market Regulation recently embarked on its first major overhaul of procedural rules by publishing the draft Interim Provisions on Administrative Penalty Procedures in Market Regulation and the related interim measures for public comment. Unsurprisingly, market observers and practitioners promptly examined the draft documents in an attempt to deduce any changes to the intended-to-be-repealed State Administration for Industry and Commerce rules.
Ping An Insurance (Group), a relative newcomer to the insurance industry, now ranks among the world's largest and most valuable insurers. Notably, its use of technology to embrace new business models that supplement its core insurance offerings is indicative of a wider global trend of providing customers with digital, added-value services. However, in China, this evolution towards added-value ecosystem-related services and the potential advantages on offer is marked by a different set of market considerations.
Despite a range of stakeholders having vested interests in developing the private health insurance market, it has remained underdeveloped and is generally considered by Chinese insurers to be unprofitable compared with life insurance lines. Insurers have also found it hard to stimulate uptake by a consumer base that is relatively unfamiliar with the added value of such products. As such, the Chinese health insurance market is not as mature, innovative or profitable as it could be.
The China Insurance Regulatory Committee recently promulgated the new Measures for the Administration of Equity in Insurance Companies, which state that if the shareholding proportion of an insurer's foreign shareholders accounts for more than 25% of its registered capital, the relevant provisions of the measures must be applied by reference. This express inclusion of foreign-invested insurers represents a substantial shift away from current practice.
Since the end of 2017, the China Insurance Regulatory Committee has taken numerous regulatory measures to address disorder in the insurance market, some of which have brought certain domestic life insurers to task. The measures are notable, as they underline a renewed emphasis on controlling financial risks, which is of utmost concern for the government.
Following the resumption of bilateral trade treaty talks between China and the United States, a 100-day plan was mooted which promised to improve trade ties going forward. One area of focus in this regard has been the foreign ownership limits that apply to inbound investment in Chinese financial services groups, including those pertaining to the country's insurance industry. This policy shift has given rise to expectations that further foreign investment in the insurance industry will increase significantly.
The Hangzhou Internet Court recently confirmed, for the first time, the effectiveness of evidence recorded via blockchain. Shortly after, the Supreme People's Court cemented the lower court's view by implementing the Provisions on the Trial of Cases by the Internet Courts. This is the first time that blockchain technology has been officially accepted in a judicial interpretation as a valid technical means for preserving and presenting evidence.
The Shenzhen Intermediate People's Court recently issued its judgment in the private antitrust litigation brought by domestic software company Shenzhen Micro Source Code Software Development Co Ltd (SMSCSD) against tech giant Tencent. SMSCSD had alleged that Tencent possessed a dominant position in the China mainland market for mobile instant messaging and social platform services and had abused this dominance by blocking its WeChat Official Accounts and engaging in discriminatory practices.
The Shanghai Consumer Council recently released the results of its assessment of 39 apps, which aimed to evaluate the level of access that they had to users' personal information. The assessment revealed that 25 apps had been over collecting users' personal information and that only 14 apps had actual service-related reasons justifying their collection of sensitive personal information.
The Shenzhen Municipality Justice Bureau recently issued draft regulations on the administration of public security video and image systems for public comment. The draft regulations aim to protect public privacy and strengthen internet information security and information sharing by prohibiting the installation of video and image recording systems in certain locations which concern public privacy. Individuals and entities which fail to comply with the regulations will be subject to fines.
The State Administration for Market Regulation recently issued a notification which aims to encourage local market regulatory departments to crack down on false and unlawful online advertising and create a positive market environment for online ads. According to the notification, local market regulatory authorities will investigate and severely penalise unlawful online ads which concern, among other things, politically sensitive, vulgar or socially influential issues.
A Guangdong province public security bureau recently fined an individual for using virtual private network (VPN) software to evade Chinese internet censorship in accordance with the Interim Provisions of the People's Republic of China governing the International Interconnection of Computer-Based Information Networks. Although the provisions were enacted in 1996, this is reportedly the first time that an individual has been punished for using VPN software to evade internet censorship.
The Cyberspace Administration of China, the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology, the Ministry of Public Security and the State Administration for Market Regulation recently announced that they had launched a campaign to stop apps from unlawfully collecting and processing personal data. The announcement sets out the obligations of various parties with regard to the collection and processing of personal data, including app operators, associations, authorities and public security organs.