South Africa's competition authority on Thursday fined car dealers, importers and manufacturers in a price-fixing case officials told Reuters had artificially hiked vehicle prices in Africa's biggest market.

The Competition Tribunal reportedly said the fines, ranging from about US$1.8 million to $23,000, were imposed following a consent order negotiated by competition officials.

Competition authorities in May accused the local units or representatives of Citroen, General Motors, Nissan, Volkswagen, Subaru and DaimlerChrysler of colluding with distributors to fix prices of new cars and restrict discounts on used cars, Reuters said, adding that manufacturers sold a record 449,603 new vehicles last year in car-mad South Africa and exported 111,253 units.

The news agency noted that the commission's move followed a similar investigation of the local Toyota unit, which last year was fined 12m rand forcing dealers to sell at minimum prices.

Several of the car companies named in the case had denied the charges, the report added.

According to Reuters, the commission in May said some manufacturers were forcing dealers to sell second-hand cars at a minimum price, a practice banned under South Africa law, and that it was further probing charges car makers and importers charged excessive prices in South Africa, where vehicles tend to be more expensive than in Europe or North America.

The report said General Motors South Africa was fined 12m rand ($1.8 million), DaimlerChrysler South Africa 8m rand, and Nissan South Africa 6m.

The Tribunal further said that appointed dealers of Subaru South Africa represented by the Subaru Dealer Council would be fined 500,000 rand and a company representing Citroen South Africa would be fined 150,000 rand, Reuters added.

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