114 found in no position of market monopoly
The capital's telephone directory number, 114, did not monopolize the locksmithing market, a Beijing court decided.
The Beijing No 1 Intermediate People's Court ruled on Friday in favour of the service, which was challenged by two Beijing-based locksmithing companies.
Beijing Andingbao Locksmith Service Centre and Beijing Anjiu Locksmith Service Company sued 114 under the Anti-unfair Competition Act.
They claimed that 114 provided a single telephone number for any inquiries for locksmiths -- 96096600 -- instead of specific company number.
The phone number provided was jointly owned by 114 and five other locksmith service companies.
Despite Friday's victory, a 114 manager said the company stopped giving out the locksmithing hotline number in March.
Sources with 114 did not make any further comment on Friday.
The Beijing Communication Corporation, the company that runs 114, two co-operative telecommunication companies also connected with the service and the five locksmithing companies registered at the hotline were named as defendants in the lawsuit.
"The hotline was monopolized by the five locksmithing companies, which are defendants in the case," said Liu Yunxi, manager of the Beijing Anjiu Unlocking Service Company, one of the two plaintiffs.
"As a result, our business has experienced unprecedented losses because the company very much depended on the 114 line to reach consumers," he said.
The two plaintiffs said the directory inquiries number, 114, used its position to affect the locksmithing market and interfere in fair competition.
But the plaintiffs failed to provide sufficient evidence to the court over whether they had tried to join the hot line or whether 114 had prevented them from joining the service, said Friday's judgment.
The court decided that although 114 is a widely-recognized and efficient way to seek information, it does not take a monopoly position since there are many other enterprises engaged in the communication field such as China Mobile and China Unicome.
The judgment also said that the setting up of locksmithing hotlines was not prohibited by law.
"Only when the user does not provide name of a specific locksmith company, would the 114 operators provide the hotline number," the judgment said.
"114 is merely one of the ways to look for information, but not the only way," the judgment said.
Some experts pointed out that there is no anti-monopoly law in China yet.