EU antitrust Commissioner fines TV, monitor makers $1.92 billion for pricing conspiracy

In what probably is the biggest ever cartel penalty, the European Union (EU)'s antitrust Commissioner Joaquin Almunia slapped a Euro 1.47 billion ($1.96 billion) fine on seven TV- and monitor-manufacturing companies which, for years, had been conniving to fix the prices of television and computer monitor tubes worldwide.

Pointing out that the seven companies - Philips, Panasonic, LG Electronics, Samsung SDI, Toshiba, Technicolor, and MTPD - had been rigging the international market of television and computer monitor tubes during the decade that ended in 2006, the EU said in its ruling that the companies had not only artificially set prices of their products, but had also shared markets and constrained their production.

About the severity of the pricing conspiracy which the seven companies had indulged in, the EU antitrust commission said that tubes formed one of the key components of TV screens and computer monitors before the advent of LCD and plasma flatscreens; and added that cathode ray tubes accounted for up to 70 percent of the screen's total cost.

According to Almunia, the cost of the tubes clearly indicated that the companies involved in the pricing conspiracy had caused "serious harm," with the "victims" of the conspiracy clearly being "millions and millions of citizens."

Almunia also added that the pricing-conspiracy actions of the companies "feature all the worst kinds of anticompetitive behavior that are strictly forbidden to companies doing business in Europe."