Revising the Law for Countering Unfair Competition to take the new online environment into account is just a start, because visionary thinking on countering unfair competition on the Internet is needed and regulators should be allowed a free hand to enforce the legal changes, according to Hu Shuli, chief editor at Caixin Weekly, in an editorial for the magazine’s latest July 13th issue.
A joint forum by the Law Committee of the National People’s Congress (NPC) - the country’s top legislature - and the Legal Work Commission of NPC’s Standing Committee on unfair competition is seen as a signal for accelerating the revision of the existing law, Hu said. The revision is also a much-need response to the explosive growth in cases of Internet-related unfair competition, but clear, effective legal provisions to address them are still lacking.
Some acts of unfair competition on the internet go beyond the scope of existing laws and regulations, Hu pointed out. E-commerce giants, for instance, force an either/or choice on shop owners who want to operate online. The regulators thus can only resort to the general provisions of the existing anti-unfair competition law to redress the latter type of acts, which means the punishment won’t be sufficiently strict.
China’s Internet-related industry is increasingly dominated by several giants, heightening the risk of them abusing their market dominance, the chief editor noted. Yet it seems that the authorities haven't formed a clear thinking on how to address it. And as competition also affects public interest, a sound basis will be laid for fighting unfair competition only when the interests of the consumers and public are taken into consideration, Hu said.
She praised the the draft amendment to the existing law on anti-unfair competition as timely and much-needed. For example, new articles have been added to prevent internet business operators from using technical measures to manipulate consumers’ decisions and disrupt normal business operations of rival players. But how effective they will be remains to be seen, Hu cautioned.