EU fines LCD price fixing cartel $857M, Samsung given immunity

Wednesday, the European Commission announced the fines it will hand out to the LCD price-fixing cartel that it has been investigating since 2006. The EC first began its investigation of leading LCD panel manufacturers, which it found had been conspiring to artificially inflate the cost of LCD screens for televisions and personal computers between October 2001 and February 2006.

"In total...six manufacturers met around 60 times for the purpose of agreeing prices, including price ranges and minimum prices. They exchanged information on future production planning, capacity utilization, and trading conditions," Joaquín Almunia, Vice President of the European Commission responsible for Competition Policy said today. "All of these discussions were clearly illegal under EU competition rules. And the evidence shows that the participants were aware of the illegality of their conduct."

Five of these six companies were hit with fines totaling €649 million ($857 million.) Chimei InnoLux was fined €300 million ($396 million), LG Display was fined €215 million ($284 million), AU Optronics was fined €116.8 million ($154 million), Chunghwa Picture Tubes Limited was fined €9 million ($11.9 million) and HannStar Display Corp. was fined €8.1 million ($10.7 million.)

The sixth company involved, none other than market leader Samsung Electronics, was absolved of any fines because it blew the whistle on the cartel. Similarly, the fines against LG, AU, and Chunghwa were all reduced for their cooperation with the Commission's investigation.

Almunia said two of the companies asked for fine reductions due to their inability to pay, but did not mention which companies it was. The requests were denied.

The Commission's crackdown on "hardcore cartel activity" has yielded more than €3 billion this year alone.

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