EC probes Nintendo over pricing ‘cartel’

Rip-off Europe?

The European Commission has launched an investigation into Nintendo and its distributors over a price fixing "cartel" on consoles and video games. Nintendo and seven official distributors, including John Menzies and Nortec SA, each received a warning letter from the commission. The body could fine each company ten per cent of annual sales if it is found that they conspired to keep prices artificially high. "European families spend millions every year on video games and we want to make sure that they are not being swindled," EU competition commissioner Mario Monti told Bloomberg. The commission fears that the companies took part in a "cartel-like arrangement with the aim of partitioning the European market". It said an investigation – started in 1995 - showed price differences were "frequent and large, sometimes double from one EU country to another," but did not give further details. Nintendo saw sales of $4.36 billion in 1999, in which an "important part" came from the 15 countries of the EU plus Norway and Liechtenstein, the EU said. The products that concern the commission are in "static" NES and SNES consoles, which have since been replaced by N64 game consoles and Game Boys. A commission representative said it did not expect a decision before the end of the year. ® Related stories Games giants sue Yahoo! over 'thieves market' Nintendo Gameboy delay confirms Palm profit fears

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