China Imposes Fines on Japanese Motor Parts Producers

China has imposed fines totaling 1.235bn yuan (CNY), equivalent to US$201m or £121m, on 12 Japanese motor parts manufacturers for colluding to manipulate prices. The largest single penalty, of CNY290.4m, was imposed on Sumitomo Electric Industries.

The fines were the largest so far meted out by China’s pricing regulator, the National Development Reform Commission (NDRC). While part of the government’s policy to step up its enforcement of an anti-trust law that has targeted major corporations and revived protectionism concerns, the move is similar to a similar crackdown by the US and Europe on price collusion in the motor industry.

The agreement by the manufacturers to fix prices contravened China’s anti-monopoly law and “improperly affected the pricing for auto parts, entire vehicles and bearings,” said the NDRC in a statement published on its website.

China has toughened its campaign to bring companies into compliance with the anti-monopoly law enacted in 2008, and has in recent years fined other foreign companies such as Mead Johnson Nutrition and Danone for contraventions.

Denso Corp and Mitsubishi Electric Corp were among the other 12 motor parts makers targeted by the NDRC, which said its investigation showed the Japanese companies had colluded to reduce competition and establish favourable pricing on their products.

The NDRC said it also intended to impose penalties on Audi and Fiat SpA’s Chrysler for monopoly practices. Earlier this month it was reported that Mercedes-Benz has been found guilty of manipulating prices for after-sales services in China.

Officials insist that the anti-monopoly law is applied to both domestic and foreign firms, with the aim of protecting consumers. However, it has been noted that the authorities appear to have used the law against more foreign multinationals than local companies.

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