Alibaba apps start supporting Tencent WeChat Pay amid intense scrutiny
A WeChat messaging app logo is visible on a smartphone.
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GUANGZHOU, China – For years, China’s major internet platforms have operated as walled gardens, blocking links from competitors and not allowing users to purchase merchandise using competing payment products.
That is starting to change as regulators force Chinese tech giants to tear down walls and change some of their anti-competitive behavior.
Alibaba has started allowing users to purchase items on some of its apps through WeChat Pay, the payment service run by rival Tencent, the e-commerce giant told CNBC. Alibaba already has its own payment service Alipay, managed by its subsidiary Ant Group.
Ele.me food delivery app and Youku video service recently integrated WeChat Pay. Alibaba’s other apps, Shuqi, Damai and Koala, are now also supporting Tencent payment service.
Alibaba also said it is awaiting approval from Tencent to introduce WeChat Pay to its second-hand Idle Fish marketplace, the Hema grocery app and the Taobao Deals discount shopping service.
It was unclear when Alibaba would bring WeChat Pay to its two main shopping apps – Taobao and Tmall.
“User experience and transaction security are our top priorities as we actively work on the gradual introduction of multiple payment methods on our platforms,” said a spokesperson for Taobao.
A spokesperson for Alibaba added that the company “will continue to find common ground with our peers in the platform economy to better serve Chinese consumers.”
Tencent was not immediately available for comment when contacted by CNBC.
Alibaba and Tencent are two of China’s biggest internet companies that have built their dominance through their sprawling services, which often focus on their so-called super apps.
Tencent operates China’s largest messaging app, WeChat, which has more than one billion users, while Alibaba’s subsidiary, Ant Group, manages Alipay.
Through these apps, users can access a range of services from food delivery to flight and hotel reservation services. Without leaving these apps, people can pay for their goods and services.
But it also created a situation where, for a long time, competitors did not allow services on their respective platforms.
These practices have come under close scrutiny from Chinese regulators who have introduced new rules in various areas ranging from data protection to anti-monopoly.
Earlier this month, China’s Ministry of Industry and Information Technology (MIIT) asked some of the country’s largest internet companies, including Alibaba owner Tencent and TikTok, ByteDance, to stop blocking links to other people’s content.
From September 17, Tencent started allowing users to access external links in one-on-one chats. For example, if someone shares a link from Alibaba’s Taobao in WeChat, a user will be able to open it without leaving the messaging app. Previously, a user had to copy this link in the Taobao app.
The integration of WeChat Pay with Alibaba’s apps seems to go even further.
It is not known if Tencent will seek to bring Alipay to any of its services.
But opening these apps could give users more choices and potentially help Tencent and Alibaba reach new users for their services.