Authorities in China's eastern Jiangsu province fined Daimler's Mercedes-Benz 350 million yuan ($56 million) for a pricing monopoly there. The fine is the highest handed out so far to automakers probed by the government last year for antitrust violations.
The regulator said the carmaker had pressured dealers to set minimum sales prices on some of its cars and spare parts, and given warnings to dealers who did not comply.
The Jiangsu pricing bureau said the carmaker had violated anti-monopoly law, damaging fair market competition and harming consumer rights. "The investigation found Mercedes-Benz and its dealers in Jiangsu came to and carried out monopoly agreements to cap the lowest sales prices of E-class, S-class models and certain spare parts," the Jiangsu pricing regulator said in a statement today.
The regulator said it had also fined some Mercedes dealers 7.7 million yuan.
"Mercedes-Benz China accepts the decision and takes its responsibilities under the competition law very seriously," Daimler said in an e-mailed statement. "We have taken all appropriate steps to ensure to fully comply with the law."
China has been clamping down on the auto sector, punishing foreign automakers for price fixing for the first time last year when it fined the Chinese venture of Volkswagen and a sales unit of Fiat Chrysler Automobiles' Chrysler division a combined $46 million.
China found a dozen Japanese auto-parts makers guilty of price fixing last year and doled out a total of 1.24 billion yuan in fines, the biggest antitrust penalties in the country since relevant rules came into effect seven years ago.
Government investigators raided Mercedes's office in Shanghai as part of an anti-monopoly probe last August.
Source: Automotive News