March 30, 2013

Yesterday the Japanese Fair Trade Commission announced that it had issued cease and desist orders and surcharge payment orders of about 13 billion Yen (about USD $141 million) against four bearing manufacturers (NTN Corporation, NSK Ltd., Nachi-Fujikoshi Corp. and JTEKT Corp.) for fixing the price of bearings (see: JFTC Issues Cease and Desist Orders and Surcharge Payment Order Against Bearing Manufacturers).

In making the announcement, the Japanese FTC said that the violations of Japan’s Antimonopoly Act included agreements to raise the price of industrial machinery bearings between 8-10% and increase the price of automotive bearings.  In addition to the approximately USD $141 million fine, the FTC ordered the manufacturers to discontinue the agreements, stop exchanging bearing price information and adopt antitrust compliance guidelines.

For copies of the news release and FTC decision see: here and here.

In Canada, three types of cartel (i.e., conspiracy) agreements between actual or potential competitors are per se illegal (i.e., without the requirement to establish any anti-competitive effects on a market): (1) price-fixing agreements (agreements between competitors to fix, maintain, increase or control the price for the supply of a product); (2) market allocation/division agreements (agreements between competitors to allocate sales, territories, customers or markets for the production or supply of a product); and (3) output/supply restriction agreements (agreements between competitors to fix, maintain, control, prevent, lessen or eliminate the production or supply of a product).  Other types of agreements between competitors are also potentially subject to review under a second and separate non-criminal reviewable matters agreement provision (section 90.1).

The risks of potential competition law liability can be significantly mitigated by the adoption of a credible and effective compliance program.  In addition, the Competition Bureau has Immunity and Leniency Programs, which can also significantly reduce criminal liability in some cases.


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