Oil firms fined 56 million dollars in SKorea for price-fixing

Oil firms fined 56 million dollars in SKorea for price-fixing

South Korea’s antitrust watchdog said Thursday it will fine four local oil companies a total of 52.6 billion won (55.9 million dollars) for fixing prices.

The Fair Trade Commission said SK, Hyundai Oilbank, GS Caltex and S-Oil colluded to raise prices for petrol, diesel and kerosene from April 1 to June 10 in 2004.

It said it has referred its findings to prosecutors for a possible criminal investigation.

The commission said the price-rigging is estimated to have cost consumers 240 billion won (255 million dollars), equivalent to about 15 percent of the firms’ combined sales, during the two-month period.

“Reports of meetings acquired by the FTC outlining price guidelines, cross-checking to see if these guidelines were followed and complaints about possible cheating all pointed toward illicit cooperation,” commission vice chairman Kim Byung-Bae said.

Kim, quoted by Yonhap news agency, said while crude oil prices rose 20 won in the 71-day period, the refiners’ average market price for petrol rose 40 won. Kerosene and diesel prices went up 70 won and 60 won, respectively.

Top refiner SK Corp received the largest fine of 19.2 billion won, followed by GS Caltex with 16.2 billion won, Hyundai Oilbank with 9.3 billion won and S-Oil with 7.8 billion.

The refiners denied price-fixing and said they will appeal the decision.

It was the second time in two days that the commission has announced heavy fines for price-fixing. On Tuesday it fined 10 local petrochemical companies a total of 111 million dollars for rigging the prices of plastic products. AFP

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