Chinese food delivery giant Meituan has reduced commission fees for merchants to help alleviate the operational pressures they face following the pandemic prevention measures enacted in the past two years.

Why it matters: Meituan, which counts on food delivery as its main source of revenue, made the move less than two weeks after Chinese regulators suggested in a guideline that food delivery platforms cut fees for restaurants suffering from the coronavirus outbreak.

  • Meituan’s shares plunged 15% on Feb. 18 when the new guideline was issued. But a commentary from the state media Economic Daily said the market was “overreacting” (in Chinese). The guideline aimed to drive consumption and recovery after Covid rather than crack down on platforms, the commentary said. Investment bank Jefferies maintained its “buy” rating for Meituan after the release of the guidance.
  • Meituan’s commission cut may well trigger similar moves from rivals such as Alibaba-backed platform Ele.me.

Details: Meituan rolled out six supportive measures both to lower the costs and increase revenue for merchants operating on its platform, according to a Tuesday statement.

  • The company will cut half of its technological commissions, capping them at RMB 1 ($0.16) per order, for restaurant owners from pandemic-hit areas who suffer a daily sales drop of more than 30%. The policy will be effective as soon as a region is placed in full or partial lockdown and will end once the lockdowns are lifted.
  • More than one million merchants facing operation difficulties will be eligible for a commission rate of less than 5% by the end of this year, lower than the average 12% commission usually charged. 
  • The company added that it aimed to bring more transparency to its commission structure this year. Last May, it changed its previous flat fee policy to a flexible one that’s based on various factors such as order price and delivery distance. 
  • In addition, Meituan is offering customized operational services to 100,000 merchants, helping them to improve storefront designs, develop food delivery menus, and launch marketing strategies. It will also provide free hardware, such as order printers and scanners, to merchants facing operational difficulties.

Context: Chinese food delivery platforms, such as Meituan and Ele.me, have been criticized for charging small merchants excessive rates over the past few years.

  • Meituan still faces regulatory risks after receiving a $534 million antitrust fine last October.

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Emma Lee

Emma Lee (Li Xin) was TechNode's e-commerce and new retail reporter until June 2022, when she moved to Sixth Tone to cover technology and consumption. Get in touch with her via lixin@sixthtone.com or Twitter.