Singapore’s Competition Commission (CCS) has wielded its punitive power by imposing fines on 12 different motor vehicle traders for their roles in bid-rigging of public auctions for decommissioned government vehicles between 2008 and 2011. After a 3 year investigation, the CCS has imposed fines totalling S$179,000 for bid-rigging at 53 public auctions affecting over 700 motor vehicles. Singaporean trader, ‘Pang’s Motor Trading’, was the hardest hit, receiving almost 30% of the total fines due to its involvement all but one of the auctions.
The motor companies had agreed not to bid competitively against each other in the auctions. For some vehicles, competitors bid as low as S$10, ensuring that the relevant trader was successful in the bid. The traders would then hold a separate, private auction where they would resell the vehicles at a higher price; with the difference between the prices being placed into a common pool and being pocketed by each participating trader.
The CCS concluded that the conduct had the effect of artificially suppressing the value of the government assets, lowering the proceeds of the sales to the government and lowering the commission fees of the various auction houses.
This is only the eighth occasion that the CCS has imposed a fine since 2005 and the first time that it has conducted raids on third party premises to establish illegal activity. While low by Australian standards, the fines are indicative of an increasing enforcement focus by the CCS.