SAN JOSE, Calif. – The European Commission has informed a number of suppliers of smartcard chips that they may have participated in a cartel in the last decade in breach of European Union antitrust rules.
The EC did not reveal the names of the companies, but in October 2008 the EC carried out raids on the premises of several European smart card chip manufacturers over allegations of illegal price fixing and customer allocation. At the time Infineon Technologies AG, NXP Semiconductors NV and STMicroelectronics NV were all linked to the raids. Other companies linked to the investigation include Atmel Corp. and Renesas Electronics Corp.
The EC said that the investigation was an on-going one and that it had initially agreed to explore the possibility of a settlement with the companies involved but has now discontinued the talks due to lack of progress. The normal antitrust procedure will now run its course, the EC said.
If the companies are found guilty the EC claims the right to fine the companies up to 10 percent of their annual sales revenue.
Smartcard chips are used in contact and contactless forms in billions for applications in mobile phone SIM cards, credit cards, passports, identity cards, transportation ticketing and identification.
"The essence of settlement is to benefit from a quicker, more efficient procedure, and to reach a common understanding on the existence and characteristics of a cartel. If that is not possible, the Commission will not hesitate to revert to the normal procedure and to pursue the suspected infringement," said Joaquín Almunia, Commission vice president in charge of competition policy, in a statement.