Nov 27, 2011

Korea's Fair Trade Commission: All Bark and No Bite?

The Korea Times published an article, last week, on Korea’s Fair Trade Commission (FTC) that sheds light on a business and, also, consumer-friendly program offered by the FTC.

The FTC has been, strongly, criticized by the main-stream for using the powers of the Commission to fight inflation in Korea in order to appease the Administration and the citizens.  Some of the most liberal, now, are even claiming that the FTC is not going far enough.  The FTC has no friends other than the Administration in near sight.

No main-stream antitrust/competition law scholar, international practitioner or Korean lawyer, that I know of, believes that one of purposes of an antitrust enforcement agency is to fight inflation.  I have been quoted, in depth, on this issue in articles in the Global Competition Review.  If you are interested in antitrust law, the GCR is a must have journal.

Even with this fact well-known, many of the more liberal news sources have been at the throat of the FTC.

A Korea Times article notes that:

Newly assigned as the Lee Myung-bak government’s key anti-inflation tool, the fair trade watchdog has been swinging away at corporate Korea, throwing around anti-competitive charges and bullying companies from raising the prices of their products and services.

But following their loud investigation and comments with subdued action, the FTC is quickly developing an ‘all bark and no bite’ reputation.</blockquote>
The article author is a little misguided.  The FTC has a lot of bit.&nbsp; I have many clients worried about the scorn of the FTC.&nbsp; Many "violators" have been fined an forced into accepting price concessions.&nbsp; Most of these violations would have not deemed "violations" in the most advanced economies.

I have advised clients that it is best, in any industries that are the focus or possible focus of FTC investigations, to report to the FTC any potential violations.

The scorn will be mitigated and the press may be less vocal.

This program is a benefit, also, for consumers.&nbsp; The FTC has limited resources and is unable to discover all violations, thus, this program may bring to light violations of law that would have not been discovered.

What do you think?

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SeanHayes@ipglegal.com