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Anti-monopoly efforts intensified

2013-08-05 09:07 Global Times Web Editor: qindexing

China's price regulator will further strengthen its efforts to fight against monopoly practices and regulate the market order so as to protect the consumers' interests, the National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC) said over the weekend.

China has seen intensive antitrust investigations this year - the fifth anniversary of its Anti-Monopoly Law - including the recent probe against infant formula producers and gold jewelry retailers in Shanghai.

The infant formula case is a vertical monopoly, in which milk powder producers unfairly kept the prices of infant formula products high for downstream distributors and infringed the interests of the consumers, Xu Kunlin, director-general of the Bureau of Price Supervision and Anti-Monopoly under the NDRC, was quoted as saying by the government's website on Sunday.

Another case is a horizontal monopoly case against the Shanghai Gold and Jewelry Trade Association, in which the association is accused of organizing retailers to reach a deal on price, which hurts the price competition, Xu said.

Results of both investigations are not disclosed, but Xu told the media at a forum in Beijing Wednesday that the investigation against infant formula producers has come to an end and the NDRC will soon announce its decision.

As to the reasons behind a significant increase in the anti-monopoly cases this year, Xu said the implementation of anti-monopoly regulations takes time, and therefore, ­antitrust agencies in many countries have very few cases in the beginning. With accumulated experience, the price regulator has improved the enforcement, he said.

"The strengthened effort is aimed at providing a fair and competitive environment for market players," Xu Hongcai, a senior economist and director of the Department of Information under the China Center for International Economic Exchanges, told the Global Times on Sunday.

Apart from the investigation against infant formula producers and gold jewelry association, the NDRC, one of the enforcement agencies of China's Anti-Monopoly Law, also imposed penalties of 353 million yuan ($57 million) on liquid crystal display panel makers including Samsung in January, and fined liquor producers Kweichou Moutai and Wuliangye by 449 million yuan in February.

Apart from the NDRC, two more government agencies have also been involved with anti-monopoly enforcement. The Ministry of Commerce handles the monopoly cases resulting from mergers and acquisitions. For example, the ministry barred Coca-Cola's acquisition of China's leading juice maker Huiyuan in 2009. The State Administration for Industry and Commerce is another anti-monopoly enforcement force, targeting non-price collusion by taking advantage of market dominance.

However, a more independent and unified agency to enforce anti-monopoly is needed in China, Wang Xiaoye, a professor at the Institute of Law under the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, said at the forum in Beijing Wednesday.

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