FTC officials pay a visit to foreign car importers

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FTC officials pay a visit to foreign car importers

Korea’s antitrust watchdog has dispatched officials to four major foreign car importers as part of its latest investigation into alleged unfair practices, industry officials said yesterday.

The four importers are BMW Group Korea, the local importer and distributor of German automaker BMW AG, Mercedes-Benz Korea, Audi Korea and Toyota Motor Korea, the local unit of Toyota Motor, they said.

Officials at the Fair Trade Commission were looking into suspicions that the local distributors gave special favors to their financial arms, and there were price differences between sedans and auto parts sold in Korea and other countries.

An official at an importer that sells German high-end brands said his company will cooperate with the commission.

Commission officials handling the issue could not be immediately reached for comment.

The on-site investigation came a year after the commission carried out a written inquiry over the importers’ price and distribution policies and sales practices.

The 2012 probe came after consumers complained that local price cuts by European automakers were insignificant even after a free trade agreement between Korea and the European Union took effect.

In 2011, the Korea Insurance Development Institute said prices of auto parts for foreign vehicles were 6.3 times more expensive than domestic models on average.

Sales of imported cars in Korea jumped 24.6 percent year-on-year to a record high 130,858 units last year, according to the Korea Automobile Importers and Distributors Association.

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