SHANGHAI: Chinese regulators have fined Alibaba Group Holding Ltd 18 billion yuan ($ 2.75 billion) for violating antimonopoly rules and abusing its dominant position. This is the highest antitrust fine ever imposed in the country.

The penalty, which equates to roughly 4% of Alibaba’s 2019 sales, is due to unprecedented government crackdown on in-country-grown tech conglomerates over the past few months that have weighed on the company’s stake.

The business empire of Alibaba’s billionaire founder Jack Ma was scrutinized after his sharp criticism of the Chinese regulatory system in late October.

At the end of December, the Chinese State Administration for Market Regulation (SAMR) announced that it had launched an antitrust investigation into the company. That came after authorities halted a planned $ 37 billion initial public offering by Ant Group, Alibaba’s internet finance division.

SAMR said Saturday that, following an investigation launched in December, Alibaba found that Alibaba had “abused its dominance” since 2015 by preventing its merchants from using other online e-commerce platforms.

The practice violates China’s antimonopoly law by hindering the free movement of goods and harming the business interests of merchants.

The SAMR ordered Alibaba to make “deep corrections” to strengthen internal compliance and protect consumer rights.

The company said in a statement on its official Weibo account that it “accepts” the decision and will resolutely implement the decisions made by SAMR. It said it would work to improve corporate compliance as well.

The practice of preventing traders from listing on competing platforms has long been known. The regulator stipulated in the rules passed in February that this is illegal.