On August 1, 2008, China launched the Anti-Monopoly Law (“AML”), establishing a dual enforcement system comprising both public and civil enforcement measures. Article 50 of the AML provides the legal basis for private anti-monopoly enforcement and states that undertakings that violate the provisions of the AML and cause damage to others shall bear civil liability.
In contrast to the activity surrounding public enforcement cases, China’s private antitrust enforcement regime remained relatively quiet during its first four years. From 2008 to 2012, a total of 143 cases concerning monopolistic conducts were accepted by the courts. Since then, however, an increasing level of private antitrust enforcement action in China, accompanied by some high-profile cases, has prompted an increased level of attention and scrutiny. Over the last four years to date, more than 300 antitrust cases have been brought before the courts. Considering that China as a jurisdiction has not traditionally hosted a competition or pro-litigation culture, these statistics are surprising to everyone, even within Chinese competition circles.
Generally speaking, Chinese courts are still at an early stage in implementing the AML.
Nevertheless, they have garnered a great deal of experience in the intervening eight years since implementation began, and are now stepping up the pace. This is evidenced by the advent of several landmark cases addressing increasingly more complicated facets of competition law, such as two-sided markets, Standard Essential Patents (“SEPs”), resale price maintenance, refusal to deal and essential facilities.
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