A new judicial interpretation aims to encourage civil anti-monopoly litigation, writes Zhan Hao

Since its implementation in 2008, it has been generally regarded that public enforcement is a primary feature of the Anti-monopoly Law. It seems that this general impression, together with the current situation of how China is lacking professionals and concrete regulations in relevant fields, means consumers and competitors share a conditioned reflex in the face of anti-competitive conduct. Most frequently, they try to protect their own interests by means of a report or appeal to the relevant enforcement authority. They seldom initiate lawsuits before the court or claim compensation for damage against the offenders.

Civil anti-monopoly litigation

The Supreme People’s Court formally promulgated the Regulations of Issues on the Application of Laws in Civil Disputes Cases Arising from Anti-Monopoly Conducts (the judicial interpretation) on 8 May 2012, and it came into force on 1 June. When the judicial interpretation was publicised, the spokesman for the Supreme People’s Court mentioned several hot issues relating to civil anti-monopoly litigation. Those civil disputes concerning monopoly cases that have been accepted in the past three years by China’s courts share certain characteristics.

First, the sectors or industries involved in the suspected anti-competitive conduct are relatively wide-ranging, covering both traditional fields and new technology areas, specifically transport, medicine, food, household appliances and information networks.

Second, the subject matter is varied and includes cases arising from abuse of a dominant market position and also from monopoly agreements, for example vertical agreements, which appeared for the first time in 2011. However, cases dealing with the former make up the majority of cases.

Third, in terms of compensation amounts, the number of the cases claiming for nominal or small compensation amounts has decreased, while there was an increase in the number of cases claiming for large amounts. The biggest compensation claim so far was for more than RMB200 million (US$31.6 million).

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Zhan Hao is an executive partner at Grandall Law Firm, an arbitrator with the China International Economic and Trade Arbitration Commission, and a professor at the Central University of Finance and Economics in Beijing