Ant Group Outlines Self-Regulatory Measures for Online Finance Platforms, Calls for Greater Focus on “Ethical Duties”

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Chinese fintech giant Ant Group has issued new guidelines for online financial operations in the wake of heavy scrutiny from regulators that saw the shelving of its IPO last November.

Ant Group issued the “Ant Group Digital Finance Platform Self-regulatory Guidelines” (蚂蚁集团数字金融平台自律准则) on 12 March, just days before it announced the replacement of CEO Hu Xiaoming with Eric Jing Xiandong.

The Guidelines cover a slew of duties and responsibilities when it comes to online finance platforms, including consumer rights protections, institutional entry standards, data privacy protections, financial consumer safety education and platform management.

They require that Ant Group’s wealth management platforms “strike against inducive sales, strengthen risk warnings and management of the aptness of investors,” while also requiring that micro-loan companies that cater to small businesses “actively guide customers in rationally making use of funds, and prevent micro-loans from flowing into the stock and property markets.”

Consumer loan platforms are required to “allocate credit quotas according to the principle of appropriateness; refrain from making loans to people who have not come of age, and refrain from providing [credit] quotas to people with low repayment capability or young people that exceeds their basic living requirements.”

The Guidelines further call upon platforms to “actively undertake the duty of financial education, help consumers to raise their rational consumption awareness and risk prevention capability, and strictly prohibit sales content that infringes public order and sound morals.”

“Ant Group is extremely supportive of the seven recommendations of the Zhejiang Fintech Ethics Committee (浙江金融科技伦理委员会”, said Zhou Zhifeng (周志峰), Ant Group’s chief legal officer, to domestic media.

“We are deeply aware that being a responsible digital finance platform requires full consideration of the ethical duties and social duties of platforms, and driving fintech to develop towards a healthier, more inclusive and more human-focused direction.

“This is our original intention in issue the digital finance platform self-regulatory guidelines.”

The past six months have been a trying period for Ant Group, with Chinese regulators scuppering its dual listing on the Hong Kong and Shanghai bourses in November, as well as summoning it for disciplinary “regulatory discussions.”

Chinese authorities have since required that Ant Group return to its original business remit of payments services, as well as convert into a financial holding company to abet regulatory scrutiny.

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