Chip makers fined for price fixing in new EU procedure

Steve Dinneen
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NINE memory chip makers, including world leader Samsung Electronics, were fined a total €331m (£284m) by EU regulators yesterday for illegally fixing prices.

The EU antitrust watchdog levied its biggest penalty of €145.73m against Samsung, while Infineon was fined €56.70m and Hynix Semiconductor €51.47m for a cartel of Dram (Dynamic Random Access Memory) chip makers that operated from July 1998 to June 2002.

The other companies in the cartel were Hitachi, which received a fine of €20.41m, Toshiba €17.64m, Mitsubishi Electric €16.61m and Nanya Technology €1.80m.

Elpida Memory was fined €8.50m jointly with NEC Corp and Hitachi, while NEC Corp took a €2.12m hit jointly with Hitachi during their joint venture period. NEC got a separate €10.30m fine.

Micron Technology received immunity and no fine for blowing the whistle on the cartel in 2002.

Samsung Electronics and Hynix are the world’s largest and second-largest memory chip makers respectively. Dram chips are used in personal computers, printers, mobile phones and game consoles.

The case is the first under a European Commission settlement procedure introduced in July 2008 in which companies admit taking part in a cartel in return for a 10 per cent cut in fines.

The commission has championed the new procedure as a more effective method to deter violations and speed up the decision-making process.