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Japan auto firms fined for monopolistic acts

NSK and NTN, two bearing manufacturers from Japan, became the first Japanese auto part firms to be fined for their monopolistic practices in China.

Tokyo-based NSK has been fined 174.92 million yuan (US$28.5 million) for violating the Anti-Monopoly Law of China by the National Development and Reform Commission, the country’s top economic planner responsible for pricing issues, it said in a statement to the Tokyo Stock Exchange yesterday.

The fine is the biggest that China has imposed on auto companies so far under the Anti-Monopoly law, which allows for a fine of between 1 and 10 percent of the offender’s total sales revenue in the previous year.

NTN was ordered by the NDRC to pay 119.2 million yuan for its monopoly practices.

“Following an internal investigation into the alleged conduct, NSK has been fully cooperating with the National Development and Reform Commission’s investigation into sales of bearings in China,” the company said, without mentioning the details of its violation.

More Japanese companies are expected to be punished as the NDRC said earlier this month that it has found 12 Japanese makers of auto parts and bearings guilty of monopoly and was preparing to impose penalties on them.

“The purpose is to promote fair play and protect consumers’ interest,” Shen Danyang, spokesman for the Ministry of Commerce, said of China’s anti-trust probe, which has extended its reach to IT and telecom industries.

An industry-wide investigation since 2012 has ensnared several foreign carmakers for their anti-competitive practices, including Chrysler, Audi, Mercedes-Benz and BMW. Last week, four BWM dealerships in Hubei Province were fined a total of 1.62 million yuan after being found guilty of price fraud, becoming the first in the sector to be punished for monopolistic practices.

But China’s increased scrutiny of foreign companies’ pricing strategy has forced Audi, Chrysler, BMW and Mercedes-Benz to cut prices for spare parts, after-sales services, or vehicles as a “proactive response” to the investigation.

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