Watchdog to adopt stricter standards for fines on illegal activities

SEJONG, June 11 (Yonhap) -- South Korea's antitrust watchdog said Tuesday that it will adopt stricter methods and standards that could drive up fines and other punishment for business practices hurting fair market principles.

The Fair Trade Commission (FTC) said that it has revised a "notice on detailed guidelines with regard to imposing fines." The revised notice will go into effect next Monday.

Under the new rules, the FTC is able to produce a point-based system with which it can measure the "extent of severity" of illegal activities in a more objective way. The extent of severity is one of the major factors that determine the amount of penalties.

The new rules along with the point system will help the watchdog more clearly distinguish illegal activities in three categories, which are "very serious," "serious" and "lightly serious," the FTC said.

In particular, the severity categories will be increased from the current three to five for price rigging cases, a move apparently aimed at toughening actual punishment for such practices.

This move comes as the FTC is stepping up its surveillance on price rigging and other unfair business practices in a bid to establish a fairer market environment.

The new rules will likely lead to hiking the actually amount of penalties imposed on illegal business activities going forward, observers said.

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