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China slaps $201 million fines on 12 Japanese auto makers

Continuing with its crackdown on multinationals over anti-monopoly violations, China today slapped $ 201 million fine on 12 Japanese auto parts suppliers accusing them of conniving to raise prices.

A total of 12 Japanese auto parts suppliers have been fined 1.24 billion yuan (about $ 201 million) due to a price monopoly, China’s price regulator, National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC), said in a statement.

The Japanese auto parts suppliers punished include Hitachi, Denso, Aisan, Mitsubishi Electric, Mitsuba, Yazaki, Furukawa, Sumitomo and bearing makers Nachi, NSK, JTEKT and NTN, state-run Xinhua news agency reported.

Hitachi and Nachi were exempted from the punishment as they took the initiative in collaborating with authorities in this regard, the NDRC said.

The fines to 10 other companies varied from 290 million yuan (about $ 48.5 million) to 29.76 million yuan (about $ 5 million), it said.

The eight Japanese auto parts suppliers were found to have frequently met bilaterally or multilaterally in Japan from January 2000 to February 2010 and later in Shanghai negotiating over prices and implementing agreements over quoted prices concerning orders from the Chinese market.

They discussed the timing and scope of price hikes for bearing products in the Chinese market and later raised their price according to their negotiations, the NDRC said.

Such moves by the 12 Japanese auto parts suppliers have violated the Chinese Anti-Monopoly Law, excluding or restraining market competition and thus damaging the rights and interests of downstream manufacturers and consumers, it said.

The fines on Japanese firms followed similar action against several other multinational auto as software firms like Microsoft.

In the backdrop of investigations, several auto firms have slashed the prices of their auto parts.

Those who faced fines included Mercedes-Benz and Audi.

Mercedes was found guilty of fixing prices for car parts and after-sales services, antitrust authorities in Jiangsu province said.

Last week, the European Union Chamber of Commerce in China expressed concern over the series of antitrust investigations, saying Beijing was using strong-arm tactics and appeared to be unfairly targeting foreign firms.

China rejected the allegations and said all companies, local and foreign, were being treated the same under the law.

The NDRC said earlier this month that it would impose a penalty on Germany’s Audi and America’s Chrysler for price-fixing.

Audi said last week it would accept the penalty even though the investigation was not officially concluded.

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