How to protect consumersThere was a reason that sugar was so expensive. The Fair Trade Commission announced that CJ, Samyang and TS corporations together fixed the supply and price of sugar between 1991 and 2005, profiting from enormous unfair gains.
Of course, consumers suffered. The commission fined the three sugar refiners 51.1 billion won ($55.5 million), but there is no way to compensate the consumers. The three companies even exchanged business information, such as the amount of sugar delivered, to prevent another company from breaking the agreement. It is surprising that these leading companies had systematically fixed prices for 15 years. In short, they ignored business ethics. The government is also responsible. What has the government done for 15 years?
The commission reported this year a number of price-fixing cases involving gasoline, flour, detergent, insurance, ice cream and private taekwondo institutes. It is also investigating wedding halls and PC rooms.
While we were unaware, price-fixing has become prevalent. Fixing the price of necessities like sugar and gasoline is a crime equivalent to stealing consumers’ money. The three companies should seriously reflect on their actions instead of making excuses. The public will not understand their hypocrisy: On the surface they appear to place customers first, but behind the scenes they fix prices.
Price-fixing limits the market’s ability to determine price. It is not an exaggeration to say that price-fixing is the No. 1 enemy of market economics. Again, price should be decided in the market by free competition. If not, the basis of capitalism can be shattered.
On this occasion, government regulations and instructions that could encourage price fixing should be eliminated. There are many cases in which price-fixing to follow government instructions has become a customary practice.
In that process, government employees and businesses form cozy relationships while consumers suffer.
The commission has an important duty to protect consumers by encouraging better prices by promoting competition. It should not interfere with the governance of companies but concentrate on stopping unfair business activities, such as price-fixing. It should take stern action in price-fixing cases that impact lives. Businesses should remember that if they do not stop going against market principles and consumer interest, the public will turn its back on them.