Several South Korean companies have been accused of fixing the prices of instant ramen noodles for more than a decade.
Instant noodles are typically sold in plastic cups with seasoning packets and dehydrated vegetables. Several varieties of noodles are sold, including ramen, thick-wheat and flat noodles.
California-based Plaza Company, which runs the Plaza Market, has claimed that four Seoul-based noodle manufacturers, including their U.S. subsidiaries, were part of this conspiracy, according to CourthouseNews.com. Specifically, from the year 2001 to 2008, Plaza says that the companies involved in the supposed scam had six times artificially inflated the prices of dozens of Korean instant noodle products, resulting in price increases of roughly 54 percent.
Anyone in the U.S. who purchased Korean noodles directly from the four noodle manufacturers at any time from May 2001 through to the present may be eligible to join the class action suit.
Four Korean Noodle Makers, Plus Their U.S. Subsidiaries, Supposedly Colluded
Charged with involvement in this price-fixing scheme are Nong Shim Co. and its U.S. subsidiary, Nong Shim America; Ottogi Co. and its U.S. subsidiary, Ottogi America; Samyang Foods Co. and Samyang USA of Santa Fe Springs; and Korea Yakult and its U.S. affiliate, Paldo America. Of the four, Nong Shim is believed to be the leader in terms of the size of its share of the ramen noodle market. The company controls about 70% of the ramen noodle business in Korea and is believed to also hold a dominant presence in the U.S. Nong Shim also is the only one of the four companies that has opened a factory in the U.S., and even has previously announced plans to open an additional facility here in the next few years.
The Korean Fair Trade Commission (KFTC) revealed on July 12, 2012, that the four noodle makers had schemed to raise the prices of instant ramen noodles, as well as to maintain the inflated prices, according to CourthouseNews.com. The KFTC claims that the collusion took place on at least two occasions when representatives from each of the four companies met face-to-face (specifically in 2001 and 2008); the participation of all the companies can also be gleaned from the hundreds of emails they sent back and forth to each other, according to CourthouseNews.com.
For their involvement in the price fixing scam, the four noodle companies were ordered to pay a $120 million fine, according to Yonhap News, South Korea’s largest news agency.