Price fixing is found by the FTC in visa checkup fees

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Price fixing is found by the FTC in visa checkup fees

Price fixing was found in the market for medical check-ups for foreign visas, according to the regulator.

The Fair Trade Commission (FTC) said Tuesday that it ordered 15 medical institutions to change their pricing practices for such medical exams after it found that 17 hospitals under the institutions made agreements to maintain prices at similar levels from January 2002 to May 2006.

According to the regulator, the hospitals made pricing arrangements for exams required by five countries - United States, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and China - in their visa application process.

Koreans looking to study abroad or immigrate to the five countries have to take medical exams at hospitals designated by the embassies of the countries. The prices of the exams are determined by agreements between the hospitals and embassies.

The FTC explained that embassies are involved in pricing to prevent visa applicants from crowding the hospital with the best pricing.

Special circumstances have led to price fixing agreements between hospitals, according to the regulator.

For example, five hospitals made an agreement to change prices for exams for visa applicants to Canada to 140,000 won ($115) from 120,000 won when testing for acquired immune deficiency syndrome (AIDS) was added in January 2002. The hospitals again made price arrangements in May 2006 to account for a rise in labor costs.

The hospitals were: Severance Hospital in Sinchon, western Seoul; Severance Hospital in Gangnam, southern Seoul; Sahmyook Medical Center, eastern Seoul; Samsung Medical Center in southern Seoul and Hanaro Medical Foundation, southern Seoul.

For medical tests for visa applicants to China, 11 hospitals took part in a price-fixing arrangement.

The FTC said it did not fine the hospitals and only ordered corrective measures as they are unable to engage in ordinary market competition due to involvement from embassies.

BY CHAE YUN-HWAN [chae.yunhwan@joongang.co.kr]

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