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Monday, December 28, 2015, 14:54

China fines 8 shippers US$62m for price fixing

By Agencies

China fines 8 shippers US$62m for price fixing
An NYK container ship sails past onlookers off the south coast of Hong Kong island on June 20, 2009. (AFP PHOTO / ED JONES)
BEIJING - Chinese regulators have fined eight major Korean, Japanese and European shipping companies on price-fixing charges, expanding anti-monopoly enforcement that has hit the auto, technology and dairy industries.

The National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC) said in a statement Monday its investigators found managers of the shippers, which included South Korea's EUKOR and Europe's Wallenius Wilhelmsen, improperly coordinated bids and routes.

The companies were fined a total of 407 million yuan (US$62.86 million).

Investigators found Europe's Wallenius Wilhelmsen, South Korea's EUKOR, Japan's Mitsui OSK. Lines and other shippers improperly coordinated bids and routes to keep prices high, the Cabinet's planning agency said. An eighth shipper, Japan's NYK, was found to have colluded but was spared a fine.

Regulators have investigated or penalized automakers, dairies and technology suppliers under China's 2008 anti-monopoly law in an effort to force down prices Chinese consumers complain are too high.

Business groups say the secretive and abrupt way investigations are conducted is alienating foreign companies. Regulators deny foreign companies are treated unfairly.

The latest penalties target "roll-on, roll-off" shippers that move cars, trucks and construction equipment aboard specialized vessels that carry hundreds and sometimes thousands of vehicles.

Representatives of the companies met over a period of more than four years to share information and make deals to avoid competition, the NDRC said. It said the collusion covered routes linking China with Europe, North America and Latin America, and involved multiple auto brands.

The biggest penalty of 284 million yuan (US$45 million) was imposed on EUKOR Car Carriers Inc., according to NDRC. Wallenius Wilhelmsen Logistics, a Swedish-Norwegian company, was fined 45 million yuan (US$7.1 million).

Mitsui OSK Lines Ltd. was fined 38 million yuan (US$6 million). Other companies penalized were Japan's K Line and Eastern Car Liner Ltd. and Chile's CSAV and CCNI.

NYK was found to have colluded but was spared a fine, the NDRC said. The company said in a separate statement that was because it cooperated with investigators.

EUKOR said in an online statement that it has been fully informed of the investigation's progress and its legal rights and will accept the decision. "We will do everything possible to avoid similar situations going forward," EUKOR CEO and president Craig Jasienski said.

Previously, Chinese regulators fined global auto brands and parts suppliers for enforcing minimum sticker prices and using control over supplies of spares to charge excessively high prices.

In the biggest anti-monopoly penalty to date, the US chipmaker Qualcomm Inc. was fined 6 billion yuan (US$975 million) in February on charges it abused its dominance in wireless technology to charge "unfairly high" licensing fees.

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