PBOC chief vows more effort to curb tech monopoly, protect consumer data

China will continue curbing on monopolistic behaviours in the internet sector and protect consumer data and meanwhile vowed to support the healthy development of the private economy, the internet sector and the digital economy, said Yi Gang, Governor of the People’s Bank of China (PBOC).

Yi made the remarks at the Regulating Big Tech conference hosted by the Bank for International Settlements (BIS) when commenting on the country’s move to close supervisory loopholes for the platform economy.

China will continue taking steps to curb monopolistic behavior among internet platform companies and strengthen the protection of consumer privacy and data security, Yi said. “We will continue to cooperate with anti-trust authorities to curb monopolies and actively deal with algorithm discrimination and other new forms of anti-competition behavior.” 

The central bank will continue to require all financial services platforms to be licensed, Yi said, adding that technology companies engaged in financial services have to separate the functions with a subsidiary to prevent cross-sector risks, according to a transcript of his speech released by the PBOC on Saturday.

The banking authority has also asked tech platforms to sever the connection between personal credit services and financial institutions by extending credit information services to finance firms via licensed agencies, according to Yi.

Yi pointed to three principles that will guide the regulatory direction of FinTech — licensing, firewalls between different business segments, and severing the link between non-banks and banking information.

This is the latest in a series of moves by China to bring big tech companies in line with tighter restrictions, requirements and oversight. The country’s watchdogs first went after Jack Ma’s Ant Group, throwing a legal wrench in its plans for a mega initial public offering (IPO).

Chinese regulations have since gone after Didi just after its US IPO, situating onsite enforcers at its corporate headquarters. Antitrust investigations were also launched against eCommerce giant Alibaba Group and food delivery firm Meituan.

Yi’s speech sent a clear signal that China’s move in strengthening antitrust regulations is aimed at guiding and encouraging the private economy and the internet sector, rather than clamping down on tech giants as claimed by some Western media, said Dong Shaopeng, a senior research fellow at the Chongyang Institute for Financial Studies at Renmin University of China.

Following a record $2.8 billion antitrust fine levied on Alibaba in April, Chinese food delivery platform Meituan was fined 3.44 billion yuan ($533.5 million) for monopolistic practices by China’s top market regulator on Friday.

Following rectification, Alibaba’s digital apps, including Eleme and Youku, now support Tencent’s WeChat payment, while Tencent allows website access from Alibaba.

At the meeting, Yi also stressed that China is willing to participate in international rulemaking around the digitalization of financial services, and step up cooperation with international organizations like the BIS and other countries to prevent antitrust behavior, increase financial supervision and improve data protection for consumers.