Chicken suppliers in price-fixing probe get 6 weeks for defence

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 in a media release 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 in Singapore, it added. The suppliers also agreed not to compete for one another'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.

The commission issued a Proposed Infringement Decision on the 13 firms in March last year, but decided to conduct further investigations when new evidence came to light after the parties made 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 it information on their cartel activities are afforded lenient treatment - they can be granted total immunity or have their fines cut 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 is about $500 million annually, The Straits Times reported last year.

The 13 suppliers are:

• Gold Chic Poultry Supply

• Hua Kun Food Industry

• Hock Chuan Heng Farm and its sole proprietor Hy-fresh Industries (S)

• Kee Song Food Corporation (formerly Kee Song Brothers Poultry Industries)

• Lee Say Poultry Industrial and its sole proprietor Lee Say Group

• Hup Heng Poultry Industries

• KSB Distribution

• Prestige Fortune (S)

• Ng Ai Muslim Poultry Industries

• Sinmah Poultry Processing (S)

• Toh Thye San Farm

• Tong Huat Poultry Processing Factory

• Ban Hong Poultry

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 22, 2017, with the headline 'Chicken suppliers in price-fixing probe get 6 weeks for defence'. Print Edition | Subscribe