China Edges Into Antitrust Enforcement With Break Up Of Price-Fixing Cartel
While no one may be predicting China will be the antitrust powerhouse of the 21st Century, its days as an antitrust neophyte appear to be ending.
China’s National Development and Reform Commission (“NDRC”) of China has levied fines and administrative penalties against more than 20 producers of rice noodles. This enforcement action represents the first application of Article 13 of China’s Anti-Monopoly Law against a price-fixing cartel. According to media reports, the local Guangxi counterpart of the NRDC led the enforcement efforts.
The cartel involved competing rice noodle producers in the cities of Nanning and Liuzhou. The first cartel began in November of 2009 in the city of Nanning and continued until January 2010. During that time, competitors held a series of meetings that led 18 noodle producers to agree to increase prices of rice noodles. Soon thereafter, a second cartel formed in the nearby city of Liuzhou that lead 15 noodle producers to reach agreement to raise prices. After consumer protests, the NRDC began its investigation, which eventually resulted in publication of China’s first public infringement decision under the Chinese Anti-Monopoly Law on March 30, 2010.
The fines ranged from 100,000 RMB (approximately $14,700 U.S. dollars) to 800,000 RMB (approximately $117,800 U.S. dollars). Reports have also indicated that some producers took advantage of China’s leniency program and only received warnings. China’s Price Law also played a role as local enforcement agencies restored rice noodle prices to pre-cartel levels.