The European Commission (EC) has fined seven international groups of companies for participation in price-fixing cartels in television and computer parts. The EC on Wednesday imposed a record fine of 1.5 billion euros on the firms for fixing the prices of TV and computer monitor cathode-ray tubes (CRTs) for a decade. "These cartels for cathode ray tubes are 'textbook cartels': they feature all the worst kinds of anticompetitive behaviour that are strictly forbidden to companies doing business in Europe," said EU Competition Commissioner Joaquin Almunia.
Dutch-based Philips was hit with the biggest penalty, 313.4 million euros, followed by LG Electronics with 295.6 million. Other companies punished included Samsung, Technicolor (formerly Thomson), Panasonic, Toshiba, and MTPD (currently a Panasonic subsidiary).Taiwanese firm Chunghwa Picture Tubes received full immunity from fines for blowing the whistle on the cartels. "For almost 10 years, the cartelists carried out the most harmful anti-competitive practices, including price fixing, market sharing, customer allocation, capacity and output coordination and exchanges of commercial sensitive information," the EC said in a statement. Modern TVs use LCDs or LEDs to display pictures. However, earlier television and computer screen technology used CRTs to display moving pictures. The cartel of television companies had manipulated the market by fabricating the cost of the CRTs and liaising with other companies to cover-up the real cost, the commission said. “They (the CRTs) accounted for 50 percent to 70 percent of the price of a screen," Almunia said. "This gives an indication of the serious harm this illegal behaviour has caused both to television and computer screen producers in the European Economic Area (EEA), and ultimately the harm it caused to the European consumers over the years." GVN/MN/AS