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年过半百,经历坎坷.少年遇"文革",下乡八载,虽历经磨难,唯斗志不减,农耕间隙自学不辍,终守得云开日出,考进大学.大学毕业后先后经历了中学执教,国企管理,外企高管,最后回归重执教鞭.目前在家精心培养有志掌握英语的中小学生. 我最大的愿望就是看到孩子学有所成,桃李天下.

我新发表的文章《打击市场垄断,保护消费者》  

2013-07-15 11:11:22|  分类: 默认分类 |  标签: |举报 |字号 订阅

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Protect consumers against monopoly

 Wu Guangqiang

 FRIGHTENED by melamine-contaminated homemade baby milk, millions of young Chinese mothers have turned to foreign brands, either by flocking to Hong Kong and Macao to snap up whatever’s available at stores or ordering online from foreign suppliers. For most consumers who can’t afford such frequent trips or shipping costs, though, the only option is to buy imported infant formula sold in mainland stores. Unfortunately, Chinese mothers’ trust in foreign brands has ended up being exploited by greedy merchants, who have been ripping off helpless mothers through price-fixing.

The National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC), China’s top economic planner and market watchdog, announced last week that it had launched an anti-monopoly investigation of five foreign infant milk formula companies: Nestle SA, Abbott Laboratories, Mead Johnson Nutrition Co., Danone’s Dumex brand and Wyeth Nutrition, referred to as the Five Big Brands.

“Based on the evidence obtained, these companies are involved in price control with distributors and retailers, aimed at excluding fair market competition,” an NDRC spokesperson told media July 2.

Monopoly comes after market domination. According to customs statistics, China imported 240,000 tons of milk powder in the first three months of this year, an increase of 23.7 percent year on year. Products from New Zealand accounted for 95 percent of that total. Surveys made by market research firm AC Nielsen show that about 38.5 billion yuan (US$6.28 billion) worth of milk products were sold in China last year, of which 42.7 percent were from the Five Big Brands.

The prices of foreign brands have been on a constant rise since 2008, on such grounds as “cost pressures” and “formula upgrading,” with the average unit price shooting up by 60 percent, making China’s milk products the dearest in the world. The price-spiking is even more absurd given the fact that prices of the same brands remained stable in international markets, and that China cut the tariffs on imported milk powder from 20 percent to 5 percent on Jan. 1, 2013.

Foreign brands have achieved the price manipulation by way of a tacit agreement. Taking advantage of their strong positions in the market, these brands made distributors and retailers sell their products at fixed prices, which was a clear violation of Article 14 of China’s Anti-monopoly Law.

In some areas — such as infant formula, cars, brand clothing and cosmetics — leading brands currently generally adopt the strategy of vertical monopoly, by specifying wholesale and retail prices for their dealers and prohibiting them from competing with each other by reducing prices. The practice ensures the brands’ profits but suffocates competition.

While the earliest antitrust law — the Sherman Act of 1890 — dates back more than 120 years in the United States, China’s anti-monopoly law didn’t come into being until August 2007. Like a toddler, China has a long way to go before it gains adequate experience to effectively enforce the law and safeguard fairness and openness of a market economy.

The authorities have taken a few actions against suspected monopolists.

On Dec. 9, 2011, NDRC launched an anti-monopoly investigation of China Telecom and China Unicom. On Jan. 4, 2013, NDRC imposed a fine of 353 million yuan on six LCD panel manufacturers, including Samsung and LG. On Feb. 21, 2013, NDRC gave penalties of 247 million yuan and 202 million yuan to Moutai and Wuliangye, respectively, both State-owned premium liquor producers, for violating the anti-monopoly law.

The antitrust efforts initially seem to have worked. Some food companies, including Nestle and Danone, have announced price cuts for infant formula sold in China.

While supportive of the antitrust moves in the hope of enjoying cheaper and better consumer goods, the public remains uncertain on issues such as whether the watchdog will punish the sharks and small fish that violate the anti-monopoly law with the same criteria. Suspicion will remain at least until the release of results of the probe into the two telecom giants, China Telecom and China Unicom.

 

(The author is an English tutor and a freelance writer.)

 

 

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