Chinese regulators slapped a string of contact lens and eyeglass makers with more than $3 million (19 million yuan) in fines after accusing them of violating the country’s anti-trust laws.
Industry titans Johnson & Johnson (NYSE:JNJ) and Bausch + Lomb were among those fined, alongside Carl Zeiss Meditec , Nikon Corp and Essilor International. The Chinese National Development and Reform Commission said in a statement issued today that the companies had engaged in various illegal conduct, including working together to fix prices and squeeze out smaller competitors.
The biggest fine was doled out to Essilor, which was ordered to pay 8.8 million yuan, representing about 2% of last year’s revenue, the Wall Street Journal reported. J&J and Bausch + Lomb were fined 3.6 million yuan and 3.7 million yuan, respectively. Carl Zeiss was fined 1.8 million yuan and Nikon was fined 1.7 million yuan, while fellow accused companies Hoya Corp. and Weicon Optics escaped charges by cooperating with the investigation and providing evidence to authorities.
This latest charge isn’t J&J’s first bout with Chinese regulators. In August 2013 the company was fined about $86,456 (530,000 yuan) after the court ruled that J&J had been setting price floors for medical instruments and penalizing distributors for breaking them. Local reports said that the case was the 1st vertical monopoly lawsuit and the 1st ruling in favor of the plaintiff in an antitrust case in China.
The moves are China’s latest in a series of efforts to curb prices through aggressive enforcement of its competition laws. Similar investigations have resulted in charges against dairy product imports and gold retailers.