China to probe prices in antitrust operation

In a bid to keep prices stable, Beijing tries to strengthen regulation of businesses

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 17 December, 2013, 3:55am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 17 December, 2013, 3:55am

The mainland will begin to supervise pricing in certain industries and punish companies that break antitrust rules, the top economic planning agency said, after crackdowns on makers of products such as baby formula and cars.

The National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC) is attempting to strengthen regulation as it tries to keep price levels stable, it said in a statement on its website, citing a meeting in Beijing on Sunday. No industries were named in the statement.

The planned inspections extend a campaign that has brought investigations of companies including Qualcomm and record fines on milk producers such as Danone and Mead Johnson Nutrition. President Xi Jinping is expanding an anti-corruption drive and cracking down on business practices that have driven up consumer prices on the mainland.

[The NDRC will] improve subsidy mechanisms in order to mitigate the impact of rising prices

The NDRC will also "improve pricing subsidy mechanisms, in order to mitigate the impact of rising prices on the low-income population," it said in the statement.

The government in August fined six dairy producers including Mead Johnson, the mainland's largest seller of baby formula, a combined 669 million yuan (HK$848.48 million) for price fixing, a record penalty for violating anti-monopoly laws. The companies tried to fix minimum resale prices of their products, limiting competition in the industry, authorities said at the time.

Qualcomm, the world's largest maker of chips for smartphones, said on November 25 that the NDRC had begun an investigation related to an anti-monopoly law, without giving details. China's regulators have been "closely" watching the pricing of imported vehicles and those made by joint ventures for at least two years, Xinhua reported on August 20, citing an unidentified person from the NDRC's anti-monopoly department.

The NDRC meeting came two days after China's leaders ended their annual Central Economic Work Conference. The central government will maintain continuity and stability in macroeconomic policies in 2014 and stick to a prudent monetary policy and proactive fiscal policy, China Central Television reported, citing a statement from the conference.


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