SEJONG, Feb. 10 (Korea Bizwire) – South Korea’s antitrust watchdog said Tuesday it will abide by a Supreme Court ruling that would force it to give back 119.2 billion won (US$109.2 million) it took as fines from two local oil refiners who were accused of distorting free market competition.
The court overturned actions taken by the Fair Trade Commission (FTC) in 2011 that claimed Hyundai Oilbank Co., S-Oil Corp., SK and GS Caltex Corp. colluded to avoid competition in winning filling stations. Tuesday’s ruling applied to S-Oil and Hyundai Oilbank.
The corporate regulator argued that at a 2000 meeting, the refiners reached a pact so that their operational expansion would not hurt each other. This, it said, violated fair trade rules and disrupted the market.
It levied 75.37 billion won in fines on Hyundai Oilbank and 43.87 billion won against S-Oil. SK’s case is still pending at the highest court, while GS Caltex was not fined because it admitted to the collusion and provided related information and testimony.
“The Supreme Court is the highest arbiter of legal disputes so the FTC has no choice other than to accept its ruling,” a senior FTC official said.
He claimed that the commission had believed it had sufficient evidence to press the case, but the court was more strict about evidence, which is not easy to obtain in many of the cases involving corporate collusion.