China to fine Carrefour, Wal-Mart for deceptive prices

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China said Wednesday it would punish certain Carrefour and Wal-Mart stores for deceptive pricing practices as Beijing struggles to rein in inflation.

Local authorities have been ordered to fine more than 10 Carrefour stores and three Wal-Mart outlets and confiscate their "illegal income", the National Development and Reform Commission said on its website.

The stores, located around the country, were found to be deceiving customers over the price of goods such as charging more than on the labels of a range of products including cotton underwear, tissues and tea leaves.

Fines will be five times the amount confiscated or up to 500,000 yuan ($76,000) if they cannot be calculated, the statement said.

Carrefour and Wal-Mart were not immediately available to comment.

The commission, China's top economic planner, also urged authorities to step up price investigations ahead of Lunar New Year, which falls on February 3, and punish serious offenders with fines and licence suspension.

Retail spending usually soars for the most important holiday of the year as people splash out on food and gifts for families and friends.

Inflation in China rose 4.6 percent on year in December, down from a two-year high of 5.1 percent in November, but it was up 3.3 percent over the year, higher than Beijing's target.

Fearful of the potential for inflation to spark social unrest, Beijing has been pulling on a number of levers to rein in soaring food and property prices, including raising interest rates and cracking down on hoarding.

© 2011 AFP

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