Feeds

EC sends antitrust complaint to smart chip cartel suspects

Fireside chat fails to satisfy

Intelligent flash storage arrays

With settlement talks stalled, the European Commission has launched a formal investigation into whether suppliers of cryptographic chips conspired to fix prices across Europe. The commission announced today that it had sent out a warning to several smart card chip suppliers that it was investigating allegations that they had participated in a cartel.

It did not name the suppliers who had received statements of objections. Cartel activity is a breach of EU antitrust rules.

The original investigation started back in 2009, with raids on various smart card and SIM providers accused of operating an illegal cartel. Since then, the parties involved have tried to resolve things with "settlement talks", but those are stalled, so the EC has kicked off a proper investigation.

"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," says the explanatory note from the European Commission. "If that is not possible, the Commission will not hesitate to revert to the normal procedure and to pursue the suspected infringement", which is what it will now do.

Secure elements are used in SIM chips as well as credit cards and anywhere else an authenticated ID is needed, but the nature of the product dictates that suppliers be trusted by customers so resolves down to a small number of large-volume players, further reduced by consolidation.

The barriers to entry are extremely high - a new supplier will have to engender trust as well as having the necessary technical know-how, so a handful of well-known suppliers dominate the market.

But the EC will want to establish if those suppliers colluded to fix prices across Europe, and had hoped to clear that up with a friendly chat.

Such chats are well defined, and offer companies found to be operating a cartel a 10 per cent discount on the resulting fine, but with a formal investigation underway, anyone found guilty will be fined in full. ®

Internet Security Threat Report 2014

More from The Register

next story
Doctor Who's Flatline: Cool monsters, yes, but utterly limp subplots
We know what the Doctor does, stop going on about it already
Facebook, Apple: LADIES! Why not FREEZE your EGGS? It's on the company!
No biological clockwatching when you work in Silicon Valley
'Cowardly, venomous trolls' threatened with TWO-YEAR sentences for menacing posts
UK government: 'Taking a stand against a baying cyber-mob'
Happiness economics is bollocks. Oh, UK.gov just adopted it? Er ...
Opportunity doesn't knock; it costs us instead
Arab States make play for greater government control of the internet
Nerds told to get lost in last-minute power grab bid at UN meeting
Zippy one-liners, broken promises: Doctor Who on the Orient Express
Series finally hits stride, but Clara's U-turn is baffling
Don't bother telling people if you lose their data, say Euro bods
You read that right – with the proviso that it's encrypted
Apple SILENCES Bose, YANKS headphones from stores
The, er, Beats go on after noise-cancelling spat
prev story

Whitepapers

Forging a new future with identity relationship management
Learn about ForgeRock's next generation IRM platform and how it is designed to empower CEOS's and enterprises to engage with consumers.
Why cloud backup?
Combining the latest advancements in disk-based backup with secure, integrated, cloud technologies offer organizations fast and assured recovery of their critical enterprise data.
Win a year’s supply of chocolate
There is no techie angle to this competition so we're not going to pretend there is, but everyone loves chocolate so who cares.
High Performance for All
While HPC is not new, it has traditionally been seen as a specialist area – is it now geared up to meet more mainstream requirements?
Intelligent flash storage arrays
Tegile Intelligent Storage Arrays with IntelliFlash helps IT boost storage utilization and effciency while delivering unmatched storage savings and performance.