Baidu of China sues rivals Tencent, Sohu over articles on food delivery service

PUBLISHED : Monday, 22 August, 2016, 8:57pm
UPDATED : Monday, 22 August, 2016, 10:46pm

Chinese tech giant Baidu has filed lawsuits in a reputation fight against rivals Tencent Holdings and Sohu.com for circulating a series of articles defaming its food delivery service.

The articles were still available online yesterday and circulated under social media accounts on WeChat, China’s most popular instant messaging app owned by internet giant Tencent, and internet portal Sohu.com.

Baidu said Tencent and Sohu carried a series of articles defaming its Waimai service earlier this year, according to a notice posted on the website of Beijing’s Haidian district court on Friday.

“The plaintiff believes that the article’s content was seriously inaccurate,” according to the court’s notice. “It caused serious adverse effects on the plaintiff’s reputation.”

Tencent and Sohu did not reply to an inquiry sent by the Post on Monday. Baidu said it had no further information in addition to the court’s notice.

One article on a WeChat account said staff of a restaurant under Baidu Waimai used toilet water to wash food materials, another posted on a Sohu account said a restaurant used expired food.

Baidu is demanding Tencent and Sohu suspend the accounts circulating the articles and hand over their information, according to the court notice.

The plaintiff believes that the article’s content was seriously inaccurate. It caused serious adverse effects on the plaintiff’s reputation
Court notice

The company is also seeking compensation and court fees amounting to more than 500,000 yuan, the notice said. It also requires that an apology be printed in a national newspaper.

China’s online-to-offline food delivery sector has seen explosive growth since last year. Other than Baidu Waimai, other competitors include Ele.me and Meituan.

Amid fierce competition, the O2O food delivery business is still in a cash-burning stage as service providers struggle to increase market share.

However, the outlook of this sector remains promising as the demand in the Chinese market is huge. Baidu Waimai was said to have completed its series B financing round in the first quarter, while Ele.me also raised US$1.25 billion from technology giant Alibaba and its financial unit Ant Financial in April.

Alibaba is the owner of the South China Morning Post.

The three delivery companies came under the spotlight earlier this month after Beijing food and drug supervision authorities launched an investigation into their services.

The Beijing Food and Drug Administration said it had received a total of 228 complaints against the three firms, with 92 against Meituan, 77 at Ele.me and 59 against Baidu Waimai, according to a report by state broadcaster CCTV.