Who can resist keeping prices high in a market like this?
Xiao Lu Chu--Getty Images
By Geoffrey Smith
August 20, 2014

China handed down its biggest-ever antitrust fine to 10 Japanese car parts makers as a nationwide crackdown on price gouging by foreign companies gathers pace.

The National Development and Reform Commission said it had fined the companies a total of 1.24 billion yuan ($201 million), over a quarter of the fine falling on Sumitomo Electric.

Most of the companies involved operate joint ventures in China with locally-owned companies, something that the Financial Times said suggested that the NDRC wasn’t afraid to attack domestic vested interests in the interest of consumers.

“China is a country ruled by law, everyone should be equal before the law,” Li Pumin, NDRC’s secretary general, was quoted by Reuters as saying.

Reuters noted that some of the companies fined have also been fined by U.S. and European regulators.

Two other companies, Hitachi and Nachi-Fujikoshi Corp, were spared punishment after providing evidence of price-fixing to the investigators. The NDRC said the suppliers conspired to raised prices to carmakers such as Honda Motor, Toyota and Ford over 10 years from 2000 to 2010.

The news is the latest, and so far most dramatic, in a sweep of foreign companies working in the auto sector, which has enjoyed over a decade of stellar sales and profit growth in China as living standards have risen. The authorities have also fined Chrysler and German carmakers such as Volkswagen AG’s Audi over price gouging on spare parts, and local regulators added Mercedes-Benz to the guilty list earlier this week.

 

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