Multinational lens makers fined for price fixing

NDRC imposes penalties of more than 19m yuan on at least five manufacturers after investigation

PUBLISHED : Friday, 30 May, 2014, 1:10am
UPDATED : Friday, 30 May, 2014, 1:10am

At least five multinational lens manufacturers were fined a total of more than 19 million yuan (HK$23.8 million) for price fixing in Beijing, Shanghai and Guangdong province, the National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC) said on its website yesterday.

The multinationals fined include Johnson & Johnson, the world's biggest health-care-products maker, US eye health giant Bausch & Lomb, Nikon of Japan, Essilor of France and German optical firm Carl Zeiss.

Hoya, a Japanese medical technology firm, and a Chinese optical company, Weicon, were investigated by NDRC but were not fined because they provided evidence to the Chinese authorities and changed their anti-competitive ways, the NDRC said.

Since August last year, the NDRC had conducted an investigation of the optical industry after receiving tip-offs, it said.

"To keep up prices in the lens market, the suspect companies routinely resorted to punitive measures, including the withdrawal of bonuses, fines and halting supplies … if distributors or retailers kept to the price limits, they would be rewarded with bonuses," the NDRC said.

"As well-known brands whose businesses are large with substantial market share, the behaviour of the suspect companies has restricted the ability of retailers to set prices, which violated the anti-monopoly law, hurt fair competition, and kept prices high, which hurt consumers' interests."

The fines amounted to 8.79 million yuan for a Shanghai subsidiary of Essilor; 1.68 million yuan for a Beijing subsidiary of Nikon; 1.77 million yuan for a Guangzhou subsidiary of Carl Zeiss; 3.69 million yuan for a Beijing subsidiary of Bausch & Lomb; and 3.64 million yuan for a Shanghai subsidiary of Johnson & Johnson.

Meanwhile, the Ministry of Industry and Information, responsible for regulating telecommunications, information technology and the internet, must self-report violations of Communist Party discipline - jargon for corrupt activities - it said in a statement.

Zero tolerance on the misuse of public funds, illegal payments, including the use of private clubs, would extend to the ministry, a notice on the China Central Discipline Inspection Committee website said.

Additional reporting by Reuters