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This just in: Brussels shatters CRT cartel

Party like it's 1999 – we can afford glass monitors at last

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The European Union has squeezed a settlement out of CRT glass manufacturers it accused of operating a cartel back in the days when people used glass screens.

Three vendors will cough up a total of €128m (£111m) to settle the investigation. Nippon Electric will pay €43.2m, Schott AG will pay €40.1m and Asahi Glass will pay €45.1m

A fourth vendor, Samsung Corning Precision Materials, will pay nothing, after it was granted "full immunity for being the first to give information about the cartel".

The Commission said the four were in cahoots between 1999 and December 2004, and "coordinated the prices for CRT glass in the European Economic Area". The EC began investigating allegations of cartel behaviour back in 2008 – by which time you'd have been hard-pressed to find a CRT-based monitor or TV screen anywhere on the UK's high streets.

The EC said: "The cartel was operated on the basis of bilateral or trilateral meetings, organised at the request of the members. The cartel members supplemented their price coordination activities with the exchange, on an ad hoc basis, of confidential and sensitive market information."

The settlement was achieved using the Commission's "fast track" procedure to wind up cartel investigations. "This is good for consumers and for taxpayers as it reduces costs; good for antitrust enforcement as it frees up resources to tackle other suspected cases; and good for the companies themselves that benefit from quicker decisions and a 10 per cent reduction in fines," said the EC.

But is there any payback for anyone who bought a monitor or TV between 1999 and 2004? Kind of. The EC statement on the deal says anyone affected by the anti-competitive behaviour "may bring the matter before the courts of the Member States and seek damages". So ... good luck with that.

The deal is another victory in the commission's fast-moving efforts to stop collusion on pricing on key technologies. It cracked a cartel of videotape makers just four years ago. ®

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