Close to $2 billion in antitrust fines were imposed in the region in 2016. As was the case last year, the highest fine was imposed in an abuse of market power case involving Qualcomm. That fine alone accounts for almost half of the amount of fines imposed in the region during the year. While last year the company faced sanctions in China, this year its market practices attracted a very substantial fine – the largest ever – in Korea. With this decision, Korea tops the list of the highest fines. Korean competition authorities were also the most aggressive during the year based on the number of cases in which sanctions were imposed.
In China too, the highest fine imposed during the year related to a practice involving an abuse of market power (by Tetra Pak). Decisions sanctioning practices under the abuse of market power regime are few, but they account for around half of all fines imposed during the year.
Other practices that were frequently sanctioned by competition authorities in the region were bid-rigging, cartels, and vertical price restrictions. Bid-rigging in particular is the most often sanctioned practice in Indonesia, Japan and Korea. As in previous years, Chinese authorities adopted many decisions sanctioning cartels, but have yet to deal with a bid-rigging case under the Antimonopoly Law. Another continuing trend is the imposition of sanctions on parties to merger transactions that fail to seek clearance. Companies were sanctioned in China, Indonesia and Taiwan for failure to notify their mergers.
Consistent with previous years, the most aggressive competition law enforcers when measured by the amount of fines are all located in North Asia. In South East Asia, authorities would impose lower fine amounts or would bring anticompetitive to an end without imposing fines. This year, authorities in Indonesia, Malaysia and Singapore imposed fines for anticompetitive conduct.
When considering the sectors of industry that were the most exposed to sanctions during the year, the information technology sector comes on top because of the Qualcomm case in Korea. Risks are more evenly spread in other sectors, particularly construction and transport, where many companies were sanctioned, mainly for bid-rigging and cartel-like practices in Indonesia, Japan and Korea.