Fresh evidence unearthed in fresh chicken price-fixing case

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13 distributors given six weeks to defend themselves, face fines if guilty of infringing anti-competition rules

Thirteen fresh chicken distributors accused of price fixing have been given six weeks to defend themselves after new evidence against them was unearthed.

The distributors, which supply more than 90 per cent of fresh chicken products here, could face fines if found to have infringed anti-competition rules.

Yesterday, the Competition Commission of Singapore issued a Supplementary Proposed Infringement Decision against the suppliers, given "new evidence involving allegations of fact and admissions".

When asked, the commission said it could not give details of the new evidence as investigations are ongoing.

The decision sets out the facts and evidence on which the commission makes its assessment, it said yesterday.

Investigations into alleged price-fixing by the 13 suppliers of fresh chicken - which refer to chickens slaughtered here as opposed to frozen ones imported into Singapore - started in March 2014.

The parties met to discuss prices from 2007 to 2014 and "expressly coordinated" price increases, said the commission.

This was aimed at distorting the prices of certain fresh chicken products here, it added.

The suppliers also agreed not to compete for each other's business, restricting consumers' choice, in what the commission called a "non-aggression pact".

It said the agreement and price increases "simultaneously created a less competitive landscape".

"As such, the implementation of the agreed price increases impacted a significantly large number of distributors and customers, including supermarkets, restaurants, hotels, wet market stalls and hawker stalls, and ultimately consumers of these chicken products," it added.

It issued a Proposed Infringement Decision on the 13 firms in March last year but decided to conduct further investigations with new evidence coming up after the parties made written and oral representations to the initial decision.

The firms applied for lenient treatment after the new evidence turned up, said the commission.

Under its Leniency Programme, the firms that give information on their cartel activities are afforded lenient treatment - they can be granted total immunity or have their fines reduced by up to 100 per cent.

The commission can fine companies up to 10 per cent of the turnover of their business in Singapore for each year of infringement, up to a maximum of three years.

The total turnover of the 13 firms amounts to about $500 million annually.