HONG KONG -- Didi Chuxing and nine of its smaller ride-hailing rivals were summoned by top Chinese regulators on Friday over complaints about their business practices.
The sector is the latest part of China's online platform economy to be targeted by regulators amid an antimonopoly crackdown that pushed Alibaba Group Holding this week into its first quarterly loss as a public company and has silenced founder Jack Ma.
Online financial services companies, tutorial providers, food delivery services and online retailers have all come under scrutiny in recent weeks, with many fined and required to "rectify" their behavior.
On Friday, departments including the Ministry of Transport, the Cyberspace Administration of China, the National Development and Reform Commission and the State Administration for Market Regulation urged ride-hailing companies, including a unit of Hong Kong-listed Meituan, to be more transparent about the commissions they collect from drivers and to improve safety measures, according to a statement circulated to local media.
The agencies said they had received complaints about excessive and unclear commissions. Some customers had criticized the app operators for arbitrarily raising fees for premium memberships that give them favorable fares. The agencies also cited concerns that larger operators were unfairly exercising market power to underprice cargo delivery rates.
"The platform companies should face up to their problems, fulfill their corporate responsibility and rectify their practices immediately," the statement said. They were told to avoid overworking drivers but also to strengthen their background screening and training.
Earlier this month, the official Xinhua News Agency said that some app operators were taking commissions of as much as 50% of fares paid due to algorithms used in the companies' ambiguous payment arrangements.
Didi, the country's dominant ride-hailing service, responded with a post on the WeChat social network, saying that drivers on average receive 79.1% of fares paid, with the company only pocketing 3.1% after subsidies and operating costs. It said that in some "extreme cases," representing 2.7% of rides, the company's commission exceeded 30%.
"We will try our best to prevent such extreme cases from happening," Didi said.