Antitrust Probe for Four Big Car Importers image

The Fair Trade Commission has launched an investigation into local importers and distributors of overseas brand cars, concerning the unfair business practices such as over-pricing.

Official notifications have been already sent to Mercedes-Benz Korea, BMW Group Korea, Audi Volkswagen Korea and Toyota Motor Korea, in which they are asked to cooperate in the probe. The antitrust authorities plan to start on-site inspections after the ongoing written investigation is completed.

“We cannot confirm anything on the investigation. If illegal activities are found, we will respond strictly according to the law,” an FTC official said.

The investigation will focus on the pricing policy and distribution system of import cars, since customers are complain about the high prices, especially those of European vehicles, even after the Korea-EU free trade pact took effect in July. Although everybody expected to see moderate price cuts, most local importers have raised or maintained car prices in recent months.

For example, Mercedes-Benz Korea has increased the price for some models with 0.5%, while BMW Korea has set the price for 528i sedan at 67.9 million, up 0.7% from the previous model.

High repair costs will also be inspected, since in a low-speed crash test by Korea Insurance Development Institute, parts prices of import cars were 6.3 times higher than Korean cars, while for coatings the difference was 3.4 times.