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Flatscreen makers fined €649m for price fixing

Squealer Samsung gets off, but others must cough up

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The European Commission has fined six LCD panel makers €649m for fixing the price of their screens.

The six companies must pay €648.9m for fixing prices for LCD screens between October 2001 and February 2006. The six cartel members are: Samsung Electronics, LG Display, AU Optronics, Chimei InnoLux Corporation, Chunghwa Picture Tubes and HannStar Display Corporation.

The investigation found that the companies held monthly meetings over four years in order to set price ranges and minimum prices. They also swapped information on future production, how much factory capacity they were using and other commercially sensitive information.

The screens are used in laptops, computer monitors and TVs.

The meetings, known as "Crystal meetings" took place 60 times, mostly in Taiwanese hotels.

European investigators also found evidence that the six knew what they were doing was illegal. One memo warned everyone taking part: "to take care of security/confidentiality matters and to limit written communication". The memo also drew attention to the Commission's successful investigation into DRAM prices.

Fines were based on the companies' sales within Europe. Samsung Electronics was granted full immunity from the fines because it squealed on the other five cartel members.

LG Display got full immunity from the 2006 fines because it provided evidence that the cartel continued. It was fined €215m. AU was fined €117m, while Chimei must pay 300m. The remaining two firms, Chunghwa and HannStar, must pay €9m and €8m respectively.

See the Commission's statement on LCD price fixing here.

In other Commission news, it is making legally binding an agreement offered by Visa Europe to cut interbank fees for debit cards. ®

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