Wednesday, 30 September 2020

China is preparing to launch an antitrust probe into Google, looking into allegations it has leveraged the dominance of its Android mobile operating system to stifle competition, two people familiar with the matter said.

The case was proposed by telecommunications equipment giant Huawei Technologies Co Ltd last year and has been submitted by the country’s top market regulator to the State Council’s antitrust committee for review, they added.

A decision on whether to proceed with a formal investigation may come as soon as October and could be affected by the state of China’s relationship with the United States, one of the people said.

The potential investigation follows a raft of actions by U.S. President Donald Trump’s administration to hobble Chinese tech companies, citing national security risks.

This has included putting Huawei on its trade blacklist, threatening similar action for Semiconductor Manufacturing International Corp and ordering TikTok owner ByteDance to divest the short-form video app.

It also comes as China embarks on a major revamp of its antitrust laws with proposed amendments including a dramatic increase in maximum fines and expanded criteria for judging a company’s control of a market.

A potential probe would also look at accusations that Google’s market position could cause “extreme damage” to Chinese companies like Huawei, as losing the U.S. tech giant’s support for Android-based operating systems would lead to loss of confidence and revenue, a second person said.

The sources were not authorised to speak publicly on the matter and declined to be identified. Google did not provide immediate comment, while Huawei declined to comment.

China’s top market regulator, the State Administration for Market Regulation, and the State Council did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

EUROPE’S EXAMPLE

The U.S. trade blacklist bars Google from providing technical support to new Huawei phone models and access to Google Mobile Services, the bundle of developer services upon which most Android apps are based.

Google had a temporary licence that exempted it from the ban on Huawei but it expired in August.

It was not immediately clear what Google services the potential probe would focus on. Most Chinese smartphone vendors use an open-source version of the Android platform with alternatives to Google services on their domestic phones. Google’s search, email and other services are blocked in China.

Huawei has said it missed its 2019 revenue target by $12 billion, which company officials have attributed to U.S. actions against it. Seeking to overcome its reliance on Google, the Chinese firm announced plans this month to introduce its proprietary Harmony operating system in smartphones next year.

Chinese regulators will be looking at examples set by their peers in Europe and in India if it proceeds with the antitrust investigation, the first source said.

“China will also look at what other countries have done, including holding inquiries with Google executives,” said the person.

The second source added that one learning point would be how fines are levied based on a firm’s global revenues rather than local revenues.

The European Union fined Google 4.3 billion euros ($5.1 billion) in 2018 over anticompetitive practices, including forcing phone makers to pre-install Google apps on Android devices and blocking them from using rivals to Google’s Android and search engine.

That decision prompted Google to give European users more choice over default search tools and giving handset makers more leeway to use competing systems.

Indian authorities are looking into allegations that Google is abusing its market position to unfairly promote its mobile payments app.

 

- Reuters

Published in World

“No Cash Accepted” signs are increasingly common in Australian shops, thanks to COVID-19. Even before the the pandemic struck, though, we were well along the cashless path, with demand for coins halving between 2013 and 2019.

For the most part Australians have taken cashless payments in their stride. A fully cashless society is often envisaged as inevitable.

But the experiences of Sweden and Zimbabwe, two very different countries that have gone much farther down the path to a cashless society, highlight the pitfalls of such thinking. Sweden shows the need to safeguard access to cash. Zimbabwe shows the importance of the transition not being forced.

Sweden’s cashless experience

Sweden was quick to move toward a cashless society. In the decade to 2018, its central bank, the Riksbank, says the proportion of purchases in shops using cash dropped from about 40% to 13%. Now even panhandlers and public toilets take cards or a mobile payment system called Swish.

Sweden's Swish app on smart phone.
Sweden’s Swish payment system is widely used. Shutterstock

But the bloom started coming off Sweden’s cashless rose relatively quickly.

Over the past few years Swedes have been increasingly concerned about the elderly, those living in rural areas and people from migrant backgrounds being left behind by businesses switching to Swish no longer accepting cash.

Last year all but one of Sweden’s political parties supported new laws requiring Sweden’s major banks to continue to offer cash services across the country.

Britain’s government has also promised to guarantee access to cash, with the UK Treasury drafting legislation based on the Swedish laws.

In Australia, research by the Reserve Bank of Australia (from 2019) suggests about a quarter of the population remain “high cash users”, for whom no longer being able to use cash would be “a major inconvenience or genuine hardship”:

These high cash users are more likely to be older, have lower household income, live in regional areas, and/or have limited internet access.

With the vast majority of Australians still wanting the choice of cash, the moral from Sweden is maintaining access to cash is likely to require regulation.

Zimbabwe’s cashless experience

The lesson from Zimbabwe’s experience with cashless transactions is rather different. It’s about the importance of the move to cashless being voluntary, and occurring organically.

While the conditions shaping Zimbabwe’s experience are unlikely to be replicated in Australia, it is nonetheless worth understanding for the broader moral.

In Sweden the transition to cashless payments was overwhelmingly welcomed. In Zimbabwe, the change was mixed up with bigger economic travails. It was neither wanted nor particularly welcomed.

Zimbabwe’s chequered history of economic crises include hyperinflation hitting 231,000,000% in October 2008. To deal with that problem, in 2009 the government suspended the Zimbabwean dollar and instead allowed Zimbabweans to use foreign currencies as legal tender. US dollars fast became the cash of choice.

This de facto “dollarisation” stabilised the economy, but it also resulted in a scarcity of cash. Supply could not be topped up by the government printing money. The supply of US dollars was also reduced by their use to buy imports as well as being stashed away as savings.

Government attempts to address this cash shortage, such the introduction of a “surrogate currency” in 2014, failed due to the lack of popular trust. Zimbabweans instead turned to electronic payment platforms such as Ecocash, a phone-based money-transfer service. By 2017, 96% of all transactions were electronic.

Use shapes understanding

In Sweden, the transition to cashless payments has not fundamentally affected people’s concepts of money and value.

In Zimbabwe, however, the move toward cashlessness has been experienced as a disruption of pre-existing forms of economic life, rather than their seamless extension.

It is tainted by distrust in government institutions and the value of all money. “Bad cash is better than good plastic!” as one street trader in Bulawayo (Zimbabwe’s second-largest city) told me.

This crisis of trust in the very understanding of money is worth noting at a time when the COVID-19 pandemic accelerates our move to cashless transactions. Changes in everyday economic life brought about by the shift to cashless transactions have the potential to reshape how we understand money in unpredictable ways.The Conversation

 

Chris Vasantkumar, Lecturer in Anthropology, Macquarie University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Published in Bank & Finance

The government of Botswana has called grossly inaccurate and abusive utterances carried by South African private television station eNCA on September 27 in an interview with Selebi Phikwe West MP, Mr Dithapelo Koorapetse.

Office of the President says in a press release that MP Koorapetse alleged in the interview that the government caused the unfair arrest of a number of opposition activists and journalists for political reasons.

The release states that President Dr Mokgweetsi Masisi has no role to play in any matter of arrest on criminal charges and prosecution.

It explains that Ms Resego Kgosidintsi, a member of the opposition Botswana National Front (BNF), was detained for questioning by Botswana Police Service.

Investigations are ongoing and she is likely to face charges of Incitement to Violence and Disobedience of the Law contrary to Section 96 of the Penal Code, says the release.

According to the release, the alleged incitement was published on social media encouraging violent conduct by members of the community.

The words, allegedly published on her Facebook page, read;

"Friday everyone must be on the streets, on the roads, outside of their offices, outside of their classrooms, with their placards and petrol bombs and protest against the inaction of the BDP-led Government. Buildings will burn, cars will not move, our lives are at risk 24/7. No one must sleep. President Masisi will not sleep".

The release says the words are completely unrelated to the fight against gender-based violence as alleged by Mr Keorapetse.

With respect to Justice Motlhabane, a member of Botswana Patriotic front (BPF), it says he was arrested together with two others and jointly charged for Use of Offensive Electronic Communication contrary to Section 18 of the Cybercrime and Computer Related Crimes Act.

He has since been arraigned before the Broadhurst Magistrate Court and his next date of mention is October 10.

On Daniel Kenosi, the release says he is currently on the Interpol Red Notice of Wanted Persons after fleeing the country.

He is wanted by Botswana Police for two charges of Obtaining by False Pretences contrary to Section 308 of the Penal Code involving large sums of money obtained from two different people on separate occasions.

It explains that the state of public emergency was declared through parliamentary consensus following extensive debate in compliance with standing orders and the laws of Botswana to specifically prevent and contain the spread of COVID-19.

No aspect of the state of public emergency provisions has been used for any other purpose apart from the objectives for which it was intended, says the release.

It reiterates that President Masisi is fully committed to the rule of law and upholds all aspects of the constitution as sacrosanct.

 

Source : BOPA

Published in Economy
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