EU Fines Flat-screen Panel Companies for Illegal Cartel

The European Commission on Wednesday found Asian flat-screen panel makers guilty of forming a cartel and fined them for breaching competition law.

Five LCD panel makers were fined a total of nearly €649 million (US$865 million), but Samsung, which was also cited as part of the price-fixing ring, was let off without fiscal punishment as it tipped off the Commission about the cartel.

The companies, LG Display, AU Optronics, Chimei InnoLux, Chunghwa Picture Tubes and HannStar Display, are all based outside the European Union, but the cartel is believed to have fixed the prices of goods sold in the E.U. in the four years up to 2006.

Chimei InnoLux received the largest fine of €300 million. LG Display was fined €215 million. The fines are based upon the value of the affected sales over the duration of the cartel, said Competition Commissioner Joaquín Almunia.

According to the Commission, the cartel was extremely well-organized, with the companies meeting around 60 times in what they called the "Crystal Meetings." All of these discussions were deemed illegal under E.U. competition rules. "Foreign companies, like European ones, need to understand that if they want to do business in Europe they must play fair. The companies concerned knew they were breaking competition rules and took steps to conceal their illegal behavior," said Almunia.

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