The Korea Herald


Samsung vows to stamp out collusion

By Shin Hyon-hee

Published : Feb. 29, 2012 - 17:07

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Amid simmering criticism over collusion and price fixing among industry giants, Samsung on Wednesday mapped out a set of measures to head off the rampant illicit practices within Korea’s largest conglomerate.

The package, a follow-up to its November program, is aimed at establishing “systemic safeguards against any temptations to collude in tough business environments,” Samsung Group said in a statement.

Under the plan, the company will conduct regular monitoring on all affiliates, expand its e-mail filtering systems and impose heavier penalties on staff, regardless of position, if caught.

Samsung employees will also be required to obtain approval from its compliance team before they inevitably come into contact with those at rival companies, and report all the particulars afterward, the group added.

“Despite considerable improvement since our compliance program in November, we acknowledge that there are still factors vulnerable to collusion in our business operations,” Samsung said.

The package comes while large corporations are taking flak over forging backdoor deals with competitors to rig the prices of their products.

Last month, the Fair Trade Commission slapped Samsung Electronics and LG Electronics with a combined fine of 44.64 billion won ($39.9 million) for price-fixing.

Officials from the two electronics giants colluded to raise the prices of washers, televisions and laptops and to stop churning out cheap models through several clandestine meetings and phone calls between 2008 and 2009, according to the antitrust watchdog.

While putting their rivalry in the foreground of public attention, the two firms have repeatedly been fined for price fixing at home and abroad over the past 15 years, the agency’s data shows.

Civic groups and the populace blasted the practice, saying big players take advantage of their dominance in the market to magnify their profit margins at the expense of consumers.

Caving to mounting pressure, Choi Gee-sung, vice chairman of Samsung’s flagship electronics unit, pledged to root out irregularities in January.

“I will punish those involved in collusion with no tolerance,” he told a meeting with executives.

LG Group followed suit, unveiling its own policies to discipline employees early last month.

“Price-fixing can’t be tolerated by a company that embraces clean and transparent business methods,” chairman Koo Bon-moo told executives in an education session.

Still, many consumers and industry insiders remain skeptical about the efficacy of the latest measures. The practice is so deep-rooted across industries that it cannot be eradicated through a set of punishment rules by a few conglomerates.

“The companies should embark on sweeping structural reforms rather than fire working-level employees who did nothing wrong except following their bosses’ orders,” a user wrote on Twitter.

By Shin Hyon-hee (