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The beginning of a new era: China amends its antitrust code for the first time

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Amendments to China’s Anti-Monopoly Law, together with proposed revisions to various implementing regulations, are set to make substantial changes to both SAMR’s antitrust procedures and its substantive assessments. Key takeaways include:

Merger control

  • General notification turnover thresholds are proposed to be increased. At the same time, a new notification threshold is proposed to tackle “killer acquisitions”. SAMR will also see its ability to review below-threshold transactions formalised.
  • A new “stop-the-clock” mechanism will allow SAMR to suspend the review period in certain circumstances, which will inject flexibility but also likely prolong some reviews.
  • Key sectors in SAMR’s sights could be subject to more strengthened review.
  • Fines for failing to file and “gun-jumping” are set to increase substantially.

Anti-competitive agreements

  • RPM may fall to be assessed on the basis of an effect on competition, but business operators face a high burden of proof in such cases.
  • Vertical agreements may benefit from a safe harbour, depending on the market shares of the parties and the effect of the agreement on competition.
  • Firms found to have facilitated anti-competitive agreements, including in a “hub-and-spoke” arrangement, could be liable for significant fines.

Abuse of dominance

  • Changes are proposed to be directed at the digital sector.
  • "Self-preferencing" by dominant platform operators may be caught as a new type of abusive conduct.

More generally, SAMR will seek to regulate digital sector, protect innovation, reinforce the fair competition review system and ensure data is protected.