China's powerful price regulator could target the petroleum, telecommunications, banking and auto sectors next in its investigations into violations of the country's anti-trust laws, state media quoted a senior official as saying.
The National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC) would look at industries that have an impact on the lives of ordinary Chinese, China Central Television (CCTV) quoted Xu Kunlin, head of the anti-monopoly bureau at the NDRC, as saying on one of its programmes.
The NDRC has launched nearly 20 pricing-related probes into domestic and foreign firms in the last three years, according to official media reports and research published by law firms.
But the scope of its investigations in the world's second-biggest economy have gathered pace in recent months and coincide with criticism in official media about the price of goods such as milk powder, medicine, luxury cars and jewellery.
Last week the NDRC fined six milk powder firms for anti-competitive behaviour. It is also investigating 60 foreign and local pharmaceutical companies over pricing and costs.
Companies in the petroleum, telecommunications, banking and auto sectors were on the NDRC's radar for future investigations, CCTV's official blog quoted Xu as saying.
Xu gave a hypothetical example, saying that if banks fixed deposit or lending rates if and when China liberalised its interest rate regime, such behaviour could prompt an investigation.
China has been taking incremental steps towards liberalising interest rates. Last month the central bank removed controls on bank lending rates, giving commercial banks the freedom to compete for borrowers.
Evrard said that while telecoms companies and fuel prices were often the target of regulators around the world, they would not be obvious choices in China because of the involvement of state-owned companies.
State-owned majors PetroChina, Sinopec Corp and CNOOC dominate China's oil and gas industry, both upstream and downstream.
Domestic fuel prices are also set by the NDRC.
The country's three biggest telecom firms - China Unicom, China Mobile and China Telecom Corp - are state-owned.
Similarly, the top four banks are controlled by the state.
The State Administration for Industry and Commerce (SAIC), a regulator in charge of market supervision, kicked off a separate three-month investigation into bribery in the pharmaceutical and medical services sector on Thursday.
Get all the latest news and videos in your inbox. Register FREE