Korea’s Fair Trade Commission collected a record number of fines against companies accused of price fixing, in the first 11 months of 2011.
Companies were made to pay back a total of $923 million (1 trillion won), exceeding the commissions’ expectations of $372.3 million (402.9 billion won). The sum was larger as a result of several large scale investigations.
Price fixing has increased in Korea as firms search for ways to make bigger profits. This year alone, Hitachi, HP and AUO have been fined for allegedly jumping into bed with their friends and manipulating LCD and other technology prices.
As a result of such cases, the FTC made $179 million ($194 billion won) in fines from LCD panel makers and other technologies.
Other cases that raked in the cash were three local instant noodle makers who
were found to have cooked up plans for nine years to match product prices, while eight construction companies were fined after an investigation on collusion to win deals for the four rivers restoration project.
The Korean FTC’s record fine earnings comes months after it was criticised by parties who claimed it should not be given the exclusive right to decide if companies should face investigation for antitrust activities.
The watchdog was criticised after a series of lenient decisions made by the organisation, which saw its critics allege that it seemed more eager to protect businesses than victims of unfair treatment.