RT-Mart fined for role in toilet tissue market upheaval

Taipei, The Fair Trade Commission (FTC) said Wednesday that it will fine the RT-Mart hypermarket chain NT$3.5 million (US$119,770) for providing misleading information about a planned collective price hike of toilet paper that led to a sudden imbalance of supply and demand in February.

Major hypermarket operators such as Carrefour and RT-Mart said late last month that they were informed by toilet paper makers that product prices would be raised by up to 30 percent in mid-March at the earliest, citing a spike in international pulp prices. The announcement spurred anxious shoppers to stock up on the product, stripping store shelves.

The FTC later convened a forum to promote competition and ban price gouging, which was attended by representatives from three major toilet paper suppliers and five leading hypermarket chains.

It also began meeting one-on-one with suppliers and retailers from March 1 to look into the massive run on the product and allegations of price-fixing.

After Wednesday's meeting, the FTC decided that RT-Mart's provision of inaccurate information on the planned price hike violated the provisions against affecting market order stipulated in the Fair Trade Act, and issued the fine.

FTC deputy chief Perng Shaw-jiin (???) said that during the course of an investigation, the FTC found that RT-Mart had issued a statement to media outlets Feb. 23 announcing the planned price increase ahead of the launch of a Feb. 23-27 promotional campaign for toilet paper.

The FTC's investigation covered not just a concerted act of price hikes, but also whether distribution channels conspired with toilet paper suppliers to cause a price increase.

Based on the investigation results, Perng said the FTC found that upstream suppliers did not negotiate with RT-Mart on the purported price hike and that there is no evidence to prove the allegations of a price increase of up to 30 percent.

RT-Mart said it would refrain from talking about the issue until it gets an official document from the FTC detailing the ruling.

Source: Focus Taiwan News Channel