The Fair Trade Commission said Monday that it has fined three dental equipment makers 127 million won ($106,000) for giving illegal rebates.
It is the first time that the state-run antitrust regulator has found illegal marketing practices prevalent in the medical equipment market as well as in the pharmaceutical industry.
The three companies were Osstem Implant, Shinhung and Neobiotech, all major local manufacturers specializing in expensive dental implant equipment.
According to the FTC, the companies had selected “key opinion doctors” and sponsored their overseas travel and luxury cars and sometimes supported the renewal of hospital buildings.
The FTC said that the financial benefits given in return for purchase of their products totaled 7.89 billion won over four years until October last year.
“We have found such illegal practices rampant not just among drug makers but also in the medical equipment market,” said an FTC official.
The FTC explained that the dental implant market was seeing growing demand by elderly people, and featured expensive treatment fees.
“In the end, illegal rebates led to an increase in product prices imposing more financial burden on patients,” the official said.
Along with tightening surveillance on the industry, the FTC plans to encourage medical equipment makers to sign a voluntary agreement for fair trade within the year.
By Lee Ji-yoon (email@example.com