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© shawn hempel dreamstime.com Electronics Production | December 11, 2012

EU fines yet another cartel

Earlier this month, Evertiq reported on the decision of the European Commission (EC) to fine several companies involved in a CRT price fixing cartel. Now, different companies involved in yet another cartel have been named and a new set of fines imposed.
This time, the EC has fined six LCD panel producers for operating a cartel which harmed European buyers of television sets, computers and other products that use the key Liquid Crystal Display component.

Companies involved in the cartel were: Samsung Electronics, LG Display, AU Optronics, Chimei InnoLux, Chunghwa Picture Tubes and HannStar Display.

Samsung Electronic received full immunity under the Commission's leniency program, as it was the first company to provide information about the cartel. Article 101 of the EU Treaty prohibits price-fixing and other practices restrictive of competition.

The cartel operated between October 2001 and February 2006. During these four years, the companies agreed prices (including price ranges and minimum prices), information on future production planning, capacity utilisation, pricing and other commercial conditions. The companies are said to have met around 60 times, mainly in hotels in Taiwan for what they called "the Crystal meetings".

According to the EC, these agreements had a direct impact on customers in the European Economic Area because the vast majority of televisions, computer monitors and notebooks incorporating those LCD panels and sold in the EEA come from Asia.

"Foreign companies, like European ones, need to understand that if they want to do business in Europe they must play fair. The companies concerned knew they were breaking competition rules and took steps to conceal their illegal behaviour. The only understanding we will show is for those that come forward to denounce a cartel and help prove its existence," said Commission Vice President in charge of competition policy Joaquín Almunia.

Fines were distributed as follows:
Company: Fine in EUR Reduction
Samsung 0 100%
LG Display 215 000 000 50%
AU Optronics 116 800 000 20%
Chimei InnoLux Corporation 300 000 000 0%
Chunghwa Picture Tubes 9 025 000 5%
HannStar Display Corporation 8 100 000 0%


The fines were reduced for the companies cooperating with e EC. Also LG Display received a full reduction of fine for its participation in the cartel in 2006, as it was the first company to bring forward evidence showing that the cartel continued after 2005 (so-called "partial immunity").

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