MOUNTAIN VIEW, Calif.—Philips, LG Electronics, Samsung SDI, Toshiba Corp., Panasonic and French company Technicolor were fined by the European Commission Wednesday (Dec. 5) as part of the biggest antitrust penalty in its history.
Philips, LG Electronics and Panasonic were fined 1.47 billion euros ( about $1.92 billion) after the EC found them to have been running "cartels" for TV and computer monitor cathode-ray tube technologies spanning almost a decade.
Cathode-ray tube technology, which used to account for between 50 to 70 percent of the price of a screen, has become increasingly irrelevant since the advent of the flat screen TV.
The EC, the regulatory arm of the European Union, claimed the companies met in Paris, Rome, Amsterdam and Asia between 1996 and 2006 for price-fixing "green" meetings, where markets were divided up before attendees retired for a round of golf.
Joaquin Almunia, the EC competition commissioner, said in a statement that the companies had acted like "textbook cartels" and had showcased "all the worst kinds of anti-competitive behavior that are strictly forbidden to companies doing business in Europe."
Philips was awarded the largest fine, with the Dutch firm being slapped with a 313.4 million euro (about $410 million) penalty. The firm also faces the possibility of an even larger fine of 391.9 million euros (about $512 million) for dealings in a joint venture with LG Electronics.
Philips CEO Frans van Houten called the ruling "disproportionate and unjustified," saying the company would challenge it, though 509 million euros has been set aside by the firm in the fourth quarter to pay the penalty.
South Korean firm LG Electronics was ordered to pay 295.6 million euros (about $386 million) in addition to its share of a joint venture penalty with Panasonic Corp., which was fined 157.5 million euros (about $206 million).
Panasonic, too, has said it considers the Commission’s decision "factually and legally erroneous." Panasonic said it would review whether or not to appeal through the European courts.
Meanwhile, Samsung SDI was fined 150.8 million euros (about $197 million), Toshiba Corp. was fined 28 million euros (about $37 million) and Technicolor was ordered to pay 38.6 million euros (about $50 million).
Interesting that companies received such a fine for technology that is no longer even used. What exactly was the anti-competitive effect? Did this stop flat screen development or technology advancement? A couple of the companies fined can afford the fees but some, e.g. Panasonic, are in the midst of layoffs and the fees could have the anti-competitive effect of actually eliminating competition. It seems the EC is the biggest anti-competitive body out there.
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