S Korea' FTC head alludes to reducing fines on LPG industry cartel

13:18, November 13, 2009      

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The chief of South Korea's antitrust watchdog said Friday that the country's liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) firms, accused of price fixing activities, may be levied a less amount of fine than previously announced.

"There may be a wide gap between the actual fine (on LPG firms)and the amount on the preliminary review," Chung Ho-yul, chief of the Free Trade Commission (FTC) said at a forum.

"As the allegation entails multiple sensitive issues, the level of punishment will be finalized in two weeks," Chung said.

The nation's six major LPG firms, including SK Energy, GS Caltex, S-Oil, Hyundai Oilbank, E1 and SK Gas LPG firms, have been involved in a cartel scandal that disclosed their manipulation of fuel price to consumers.

Proving into the allegation, the FTC revealed that since 2003 they have fixed LPG prices, observing that LPG prices among them varied only by roughly 0.79 won (0.7 cents) per gallon.

The FTC head said at an annual audit that the size of the fine levied on the firms would reach around 1 trillion won (856.1 million U.S. dollars), the highest fine the regulator ever imposed on any industry.

Last week, Chung reiterated South Korea's plan to enforce stricter rules on domestic cartel activities in order to eliminate unfair practices in the market.

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