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China probes Tencent-backed e-commerce platform Vipshop

Tencent-backed company alleged to unfairly compete by locking in merchants

Vipshop, whose logo is shown at center, is being investigated by China's State Administration for Market Regulation amid criticism from competitors that it has unfairly locked in merchants.

GUANGZHOU, China -- China's State Administration for Market Regulation, the country's antitrust watchdog, on Thursday announced it will investigate major e-commerce platform operator Vipshop on suspicion of unfair competition. The move comes amid criticism from competitors that the company has unfairly locked in merchants.

Vipshop is backed by Internet giant Tencent Holdings.

The SAMR has not disclosed the specific type of fraud that the company is suspected of. In September, a competitor issued a statement accusing Vipshop of urging store owners not to do business with other e-commerce companies.

Vipshop said it will actively cooperate with the investigation.

Regulators are tightening scrutiny over Internet giants. In December, the SAMR investigated the largest e-commerce group, Alibaba Group Holding, on suspicion of violating antitrust law. Alibaba, JD.com and Vipshop were also fined for improper price fixing.

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