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Regulator to guide firms on cartel laws

FTC to help Korean companies act within tighter U.S., EU regulations


The Fair Trade Commission on Tuesday cautioned local companies over increasingly tougher anti-trust regulations and surveillance in Europe and the U.S. after Korean companies were slapped with billions of dollars in fines for collusion overseas.

The regulator said it will step up efforts to help Korean companies to trade within the boundaries of international competition law.

Antitrust regulators abroad have slapped 2.3 trillion won ($2.06 billion) in fines on Korean companies so far for price fixing and other business malpractices in Europe, the U.S., Canada and Japan, the FTC said.

“We promise stern punishments for companies caught in the act of international cartel activities,” the FTC said.

A task force will be established within the FTC. Its members will visit the headquarters of 12 conglomerates to train more than 2,400 executives, a four-fold increase from last year, it said.

The task force will distribute the educational materials online and send them to workers dispatched overseas.

A survey on 51 local companies by the regulator said management increasingly demands detailed explanations of business practices considered price fixing in the international market.

“We will fully support companies making efforts to educate themselves to operate within legal boundaries. It is in our best interest to ingrain corporate practices complying with international competition law and policies,” the FTC said.

The U.S. has imposed fines totaling 1.66 trillion won across four cases since 1996. Investigations into the four cases ended up slapping Cheil Food & Chemicals 1.4 billion won and 3.4 billion won in 1996 and 2001.

Samsung Electronics and Hynix Semiconductors were slapped with 335 billion won and 206.8 billion won each for price fixing of their computer chip products.

Korean Air Lines Co. and Asiana Airlines Inc. were fined 355 billion won and 55.8 billion won respectively across two years from 2007.

Korean companies have been fined 647.4 billion won since 2000 in Europe over similar cases.

Samsung Electronics and LG Display are found to also have paid fines to the European authorities for fixing prices of display panels last year.

The Japanese antitrust regulator fined two Korean firms ― Samsung SDI and LG Philips LCD Korea ― 20.1 billion won in 2009 for price collusion on display products.

By Cynthia J. Kim (cynthiak@heraldcorp.com)
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