China fines Japanese auto parts makers record $201 million for price-fixing

Wed Aug 20, 2014 5:55am EDT
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By Matthew Miller and Yoko Kubota

BEIJING/TOKYO (Reuters) - China has fined Japanese auto parts makers a record 1.235 billion yuan ($201 million) for manipulating prices as the government steps up its enforcement of an anti-trust law that has targeted major corporations and revived protectionism concerns.

The fines, the largest so far meted out by the pricing regulator, the National Development Reform Commission (NDRC), follow a global crack down including in the United States and Europe on price collusion in the auto parts sector, which has also mostly affected Japanese companies.

In China, parts maker Sumitomo Electric Industries Ltd was the hardest hit by the NDRC with a 290.4 million yuan fine.

Denso Corp and Mitsubishi Electric Corp were also among the 12 auto parts makers the NDRC said its investigation showed had colluded to reduce competition and establish favorable pricing on their products.

The agreements were in violation of China's anti-monopoly law and "improperly affected the pricing for auto parts, entire vehicles and bearings", the NDRC said in a statement published on its website on Wednesday.

China is intensifying its efforts to bring companies into compliance with the anti-monopoly law enacted in 2008, and has in recent years slapped foreign companies including Mead Johnson Nutrition Co and Danone SA with hefty fines.

Legal experts, however, point out that the authorities appear to have wielded the law against more foreign multinationals than local companies. Officials say the law is applied to both domestic and foreign firms, with the aim of protecting consumers.

China's auto sector, which is the world's largest and dominated by foreign brands, has been under particular scrutiny amid accusations by state media that global car and parts makers are overcharging customers.   Continued...

Mitsubishi Motors Corp's the i-MiEV electric vehicles are reflected on an external wall during an unveiling at the company headquaters in Tokyo June 5, 2009.  REUTERS/Issei Kato