Samsung, LG and Philips involved in what the EC says are among the most organised cartels it has ever seen
The European Commission has fined seven producers of cathode ray tubes (CRT) a total of €1.47 billion (£1.19bn) for their participation in two of “the most organised cartels that the Commission has ever investigated.”
One cartel concerned the production of colour picture tubes for televisions, while the other was related to the colour display tubes used in computer monitors. Both operated worldwide over the course of a decade between 1996 and 2006.
Chunghwa, LG, Philips and Samsung participated in both, while Panasonic, Toshiba, MTPD (now a Panasonic subsidiary) and Technicolor (formerly Thomson) participated in both. Chunghwa received full immunity from fines under the EC’s 2006 Leniency notice for the two cartels as it was the first to reveal their existence to the EC.
Samsung, Philips and Technicolor received reductions ranging from 10 to 40 percent depending on the timing and extent of cooperation.
CRT cartels uncovered by EC
“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 Joaquin Almunia, EC vice president in charge of competition policy. “. Cathode ray tubes were a very important component in the making of television and computer screens. They accounted for 50 to 70 percent of the price of a screen. This gives an indication of the serious harm this illegal behaviour has caused both to television and computer screen producers in the EEA, and ultimately the harm it caused to the European consumers over the years.”
The EC says that the companies involved fixed prices, shared markets, allocated customers between themselves and restricted output. The cartels were organised by top level management over golf meetings and regular lower-level meetings held around the world.
The commission says that the firms knew they were acting illegally as one document uncovered in the investigation confirmed. “Everybody is requested to keep it as secret as it would be serious damage if it is open to customers or European Commission,” it read, while another said, “Please dispose the following document after reading it.”
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