EC fines LCD manufacturers cartel €650m for price fixing

10 Dec 2010

Samsung and LG are among the list of manufacturers that have been fined almost €650m by the European Commission (EC) for pre-agreed price fixing and “for operating a cartel which harmed European buyers of television sets, computers and other products that use the key liquid crystal display (LCD) component”.

The EC recently announced that Samsung, LG Display, AU Optronic, Chimei Innoclux Corporation, Chunghwa Picture Tubes and HannStar Display Corporation were deemed to have taken part in the price agreement and were to be fined €648,925,000 for their involvement in the cartel.

Playing fair

“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.

The price-fixing cartel is believed to have been in operation from October 2001 to February 2006, and the liquid crystal display (LCD) panel manufacturers agreed on prices, including price ranges and minimum prices, exchanged information on future production planning, capacity utilisation, and other commercial conditions during that time.

The crystal meetings

The EC said that the cartel members held monthly multilateral meetings and further bilateral meetings, totalling around 60 times, mainly in hotels in Taiwan for what they called “the crystal meetings”.

The Commission’s investigation shows that the companies were aware they were in breach of competition rules and took steps to conceal the venue and results of the meetings.

LCD screens are common in consumer devices such as video players, gaming devices and mobile phones, and cost less to run than cathode ray tubes.