Six major LCD panel producers have been fined a total of €648m (£542m) by the European Commission (EC) for operating a price-fixing cartel that affected the cost of televisions, computer screens and other technologies.
An EC investigation found that Samsung, LG, AU Optronics, Chimei InnoLux Corporation, Chunghwa Picture Tubes and HannStar Display Corporation agreed price ranges and minimum prices, and exchanged information on future production plans and capacity utilisation, over a period of four years.
The companies convened around 60 monthly gatherings in Taiwan in what they called "the crystal meetings".
The EC said that the manufacturers were fully aware that the discussions broke competition rules, and the investigation uncovered a document that requested the firms to "take care of security/confidentiality matters and to limit written communication".
Samsung avoided a fine, however, as it received full immunity under the EC's 2002 Leniency Notice for bringing the cartel to the EC's attention and helping to prove the infringement.
LG received a 50 per cent reduction for its co-operation, but was still fined €215m (€180m), while AU Optronics received a 20 per cent reduction, resulting in a fine of €116m (£97m).
Chimei was the firm hardest hit by the EC's decision, being forced to pay €300m (£251m), and HannStar was fined €8.1m (£6.69m) and Chunghwa €9m (£7.5m).
Joaquín Almunia, EC vice president in charge of competition policy, hopes that the ruling will send a message to other companies about the tough stance taken against price-fixing.
"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 behaviour," he said.
"The only understanding we will show is for those that come forward to denounce a cartel and help prove its existence."
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