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More antitrust probes in the pipeline By Peng WU 2014-02-18

Updated: 2014-02-11 01:44
By Zhao Yinan (China Daily)

Antitrust authorities are expected to launch more investigations this year in dozens of industries after expanding their teams nationwide, insiders have said.

Huang Yong, deputy head of the expert advisory group of the State Council’s anti-monopoly committee, told China Daily that more investigations will be in the pipeline after new hands are added to price supervision offices.

"The shortage of personnel is believed to be a major difficulty local price supervision offices face," said Huang, also a professor at the University of International Business and Economics.

Xu Kunlin, head of the price supervision department at the National Development and Reform Commission, recently revealed a plan to recruit at least 170 employees for the antitrust law enforcement team. About 20 of the new members will work for the Beijing department of the NDRC, and the rest will join local units.

Anti-monopoly investigations currently target such industries as telecommunications, vehicles, banking, pharmaceutical products, energy, food and those fields that are closely associated with the daily life of consumers, said Wu Peng, managing partner of Zhong Lun Law Firm, one of the first law firms providing legal service on M&A and antitrust issues in China.

China’s cellphone and chip makers recently filed complaints against Qualcomm, the world’s biggest cellphone chip maker.

"What’s happening to China’s mobile phone industry is like what happened to its DVD industry years back. The patent holders charged exorbitant fees and took all the profits. There’s nothing left for the Chinese industry except manufacturing," China Mobile Phone Alliance Secretary-General Wang Yanghui said.

The US telecommunications giant was probed by the NDRC in August.

Wu said the intensified investigation is made possible as antitrust officers have gained substantial experience in collecting evidence since the country’s anti-monopoly law was passed in 2008.
The NDRC fined six infant formula manufacturers a record $110 million in August for price fixing and anti-competitive practices.

Wu said intensified investigations will target foreign and domestic companies.

According to the Supreme People’s Court, judges have heard more than 61 antitrust lawsuits from 2008 to 2013.

The number has grown faster in recent years as more companies have become aware of using antitrust rules to protect their rights.

Mu Ying, a judge at Beijing No 1 Intermediate Court, said a failure to collect adequate evidence has left many plaintiffs a slim chance to win cases.

"And even though they win the lawsuit, the fines can hardly compensate their losses," she said.

Wu believes the difficulty in winning a lawsuit has forced many companies to seek help from the NDRC after they encounter unfair market competition.

此文转载自China Daily采访文章