Monopolies, data, etc. : life in the age of mobile apps could turn out to be a mixed bag
My generation (people born after 1990) are used to an “all platform” life, where we use mobile apps from different platforms to do almost everything in life.
For example, I ordered a cup of coffee on Monday using an online delivery app. Then I hailed a cab by tapping on the app for a ride reservation service. Then I bought some basic necessities on the Taobao shopping platform. With that done, I moved on to various other online destinations to get my daily fix of music, reading, social media, etc.
Platforms are now playing an increasingly important role in almost all aspects of daily life, not just economic and political processes. Consumption and social interactions are now inextricably linked to platforms.
But, I started to get confused recently. I thought I was treated differently. My friend and I called a taxi at the same time on a rideshare platform and found that for the same destination the prices were different.
The price on my phone was higher. One of the potential reasons could have been that I use the rideshare platform regularly and have a higher ranking while my friend doesn’t use it that often. Thus, the carpooling platform offers discounts to beginners like her, to attract and retain these customers.
So the prices tend to be low, if not overwhelming, for newbies to start with. This is understandable in a very competitive market. All the more so when the domain is a quasi-monopoly or a duopoly.
Here’s the irony: Loyal customers help a market entity become a dominant player. But the same customers are discriminated against later by such companies.
Thus, China’s latest efforts to regulate monopolistic or inappropriate market behavior are of great importance to protect the legitimate rights of consumers.
“The essence of the platform-based monopoly is that a large number of users are only collected on a few selected platform companies, resulting in uneven data collection on different platforms. But in China, some platforms are leveraging their own data and traffic to grow their capital in a haphazard manner, ”said Wang Yong, deputy director of the Institute of Economics at Tsinghua University.
According to a report by WeChat, in June of this year, WeChat’s combined monthly active accounts reached 1.25 billion worldwide. Data from Byte-Dance also showed that Douyin, the Chinese version of the short video-sharing app TikTok, had 600 million daily active users in August.
“Data can only take full advantage of its advantage and greater synergistic value when it is highly complementary, open and shared,” Wang said.
The data monopoly has also triggered another downside for consumers: platforms block links between them. For example, the link to Tencent’s WeChat Pay is not available on Alibaba’s Taobao while there is no Alipay link on the payment options of the JD app.
Last year, Beijing Sankuai Online Technology Co and Beijing Sankuai Information Technology Co, the names of Meituan registered companies, were accused of preventing customers from using Alipay as a payment option on Meituan apps and platforms. .
Several netizens accused Meituan of restricting payment options on its platforms and prioritizing its own payment services, as well as WeChat Pay and Apple Pay options.
In July, the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology launched a special six-month rectification for the internet industry, asking roaming platform operators to stop blocking each other’s links.
The draft amendment to the Antimonopoly Law also proposed that platform operators not exclude or restrict competition by using data, algorithms, technologies, capital benefits or platform rules.
To ensure market fairness, it is important to put in place a strong online traffic settlement system and allow market mechanisms to play a key role in shaping the data and traffic markets, Wang said. from Tsinghua University.
“More efforts should also be made to strike the right balance between protecting personal information and interconnectivity between platforms. Businesses are encouraged to further develop data encryption technology so that data is available but not visible. “