Humax hit with $150,000 fine for price fixing

Hardware manufacturer, Humax, has copped a $150,000 fine for attempting to fix the retail price of its digital set-top boxes.

According to an ACCC statement, the vendor contacted three small retailers in Melbourne and Perth during September to induce them to not sell its boxes for under $599.

Its manager, Andrew Song, contacted each during a four-day period, the ACCC said.

The industry watchdog instituted legal proceedings against both the company and Song in the Federal Court in February.

The company admitted to four contraventions of the resale price maintenance provisions of the Trade Practises Act.

Alongside the financial penalty, Humax will be required to put staff through a trade practices training course.

An injunction has also been placed on the company to prevent similar conduct for the next three years.

Song incurred a further $7500 fine for being knowingly involved.

ACCC acting chair, Louise Sylvan, said the penalty was a warning to all vendors looking to fix prices for products.

"Retailers should be free to sell their goods at the prices they think is appropriate, not the price at which an importer might think is best," she said. "This penalty should send a message to directors and managers of companies that even engaging in anti-competitive conduct for a short period of time can result in significant consequences."

Sylvan advised all resellers who are subject to this kind of pressure to contact the ACCC immediately.

She said any kind of price maintenance behaviour on the part of wholesalers was illegal.

"This behaviour does everything wrong in terms of what a free market should entail," Sylvan said.

All businesses should also ensure there are familiar with the rules of the Trade Practises Act to prevent engaging in misleading conduct, she said.

This involved educating staff about these requirements on an ongoing basis, as well as providing suitable manuals on the regulations, Sylvan said.

"It's not just about the price maintenance provisions in this case but also consumer protection provisions," she said.

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