China’s pricing regulator is investigating industries where excessive profits are being made such as eyeglasses, an antitrust official said on Monday, adding that authorities have not opened any probe into the auto industry.
Lawyers in China say client enquiries related to a five-year old anti-monopoly law have jumped in recent months in the wake of a spate of antitrust investigations across sectors ranging from pharmaceuticals to milk powder and jewellery.
Last month a Chinese automotive association said it was collecting data on the price of all foreign cars sold in the country for the National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC), which regulates prices.
But Xu Kunlin, head of the NDRC’s anti-monopoly bureau, told a panel at an antitrust forum in Beijing that the agency had “not selected the auto industry for investigation”.
“We hope that our investigations will bring prices down in industries in which they are high,” said Xu, instead singling out the cost of glasses frames and lenses, which he said were “many times higher” in China, without giving specific examples.
“I can reveal to everyone today that we are currently investigating spectacles. Actually, the investigation has proceeded smoothly. The relevant companies have all made admissions,” Xu said without naming any firms.
Xu did not respond when the panel moderator – Huang Yong, a well-known legal scholar at China’s University of International Business and Economics – noted that Xu’s comments did not mean the NDRC would not investigate the auto industry in the future.
The official Xinhua news agency has said foreign carmakers were reaping exorbitant profits selling imported luxury cars in China and should face an antitrust investigation.
China has become a key market for luxury carmakers, with 2.7 million expected to be sold each year by 2020, overtaking the United States as the world’s leader in the segment.