KCCI asks FTC to reverse some of its revisions

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KCCI asks FTC to reverse some of its revisions

The business community is asking the Fair Trade Commission (FTC) to reconsider a recent revision of the antitrust laws that allows other institutions to investigate antitrust cases.

The Korea Chamber of Commerce and Industry (KCCI) on Sunday said it had delivered the request to the FTC on Friday, saying the change will contribute to uncertainties that could restrain business activities

The abolishing of the FTC’s exclusive rights to turn over antitrust cases to the prosecutors’ office were among the five requests the KCCI made.

The other four involve limiting information exchanges that could be suspected of price-fixing; limiting the voting rights of nonprofit enterprises; expanding regulations against transactions between affiliated companies and the toughening of penalties for antitrust regulations. The biggest concern raised by the KCCI was the abolishment of the FTC’s exclusive rights to report antitrust cases to prosecutors.

It said this would lead to an increase in false accusations by rival companies and deepen confusion over who’s investigating what. The FTC and prosecutor’s office could have different judgments on the same case, the KCCI said.

The KCCI asked the FTC to make the law clearer to prevent the possibility of overlapping investigation and cut back on reckless or frivolous accusations.

The lobbying group also requested that the FTC come up with specific guidelines as to exchanges of information among companies as the interpretation of colluding on prices is currently ambiguous. Some product prices like steel are decided in discussions among steel manufacturers. A standard price is set and after companies offer discounts, the final price is arrived at. Under the revised law, this practice could be interpreted as price fixing. The KCCI said such a broad interpretation by the FTC could put a heavy burden on businesses.

On conglomerate-owned nonprofit companies, the KCCI said limiting the voting rights of such companies is a violation of property rights, adding that if the FTC wants to prevent a conglomerate’s controlling family from strengthening its control of affiliates through shares owned by nonprofit companies, it should be looking into measures that would increase transparency through strengthening the mandatory public notification of management decisions these nonprofit companies makes.

The lobbying group also asked the FTC to abolish a number of punitive clauses that could lead to criminal charges, adding that when compared to other advanced economies, Korea now has a harsher standard. According to the KCCI, among 34 OECD member countries only 14 have a penalty clause against antitrust regulation.

“Among the [OECD countries], the U.K. and Canada’s punitive clauses are limited to price fixing while Japan and the U.S. have penalty clause for price fixing and manipulation through monopoly,” the KCCI argued.

“Companies need to make changes according to changes in the times and society,” the KCCI said in the proposal delivered to the FTC. “But actions that are taken to strengthen transparency in the market shouldn’t lead to increasing uncertainty.”

BY LEE HO-JEONG [lee.hojeong@joongang.co.kr]
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