Chinese workers at the FAW-Volkswagen assembly plant in Chengdu
Beijing - AFP
An affiliate of German carmaker Volkswagen has been fined more than $40.5 million for price-fixing in China, authorities said Thursday, the latest company to be punished under a sweeping anti-monopoly crackdown.
FAW-Volkswagen Sales Company, Ltd., a partnership between the Frankfurt-based firm and Chinese auto maker FAW, has been ordered to pay 248.58 million yuan in penalties for the offence, the Hubei Province Price Bureau said in a statement.
Beijing has over the past year launched a wide-ranging crackdown on alleged malpractice by domestic and foreign firms across diverse sectors, including pharmaceuticals, baby formula and technology.
Investigations found that the Volkswagen company had since 2012 organised 10 Audi dealers in the central province to fix prices for the cars and repair services, the statement said.
The move "deprived ... downstream operators of pricing rights, inflated sales prices for the cars and auto parts, eliminated and restricted the normal competitive order of the car and the spare parts (market) and damaged the rights and interests of consumers", it said.
"FAW-Volkswagen Sales Company, Ltd. presided over the process of organising, reaching and implementing the price monopoly agreement of the car and repair services and obviously played a leading and facilitating role," it added.
The fine was equivalent to six percent of the company's relevant sales revenue in the previous year, according to the statement.
Eight of the 10 dealers were fined between 110,000 yuan and 16.06 million yuan while the other two were exempted for reporting about the violation or minor offences, it said.
The sales company and the dealers lowered the price of imported Audi parts on August 1 and promised to "strictly comply with" Chinese anti-monopoly laws, according to the statement.
Separately, state media reported that Chrysler (China) Automobile Sales Co. will pay up to 31.7 million yuan in an antitrust fine imposed by Shanghai authorities for requiring dealers between 2012 and 2014 to maintain prices recommended by the manufacturer.
The official Xinhua news agency also reported that Shanghai pricing authorities said three of the company's dealerships in Shanghai would be slapped with antitrust fines totalling 2.14 million yuan for agreeing to set unified prices for car repair, spare parts and paint jobs for Chrysler, Jeep and Dodge vehicles.
The National Development and Reform Commission, one of three Chinese government bodies that investigates monopoly actions, said last month it was probing auto firms including Audi and Chrysler as well as 12 Japanese companies for possible violations.
It is the latest in a series of inquiries in various fields which have raised investor concerns about the business climate in China.
The government last month fined 10 of the Japanese auto parts firms more than $200 million in total for price-fixing, reportedly the biggest-ever such penalties, with one of the companies ordered to pay the highest amount of 290.4 million yuan.