Television makers hit with €2bn in EU fines for price fixing cartel

City A.M. Reporter
THE EC imposed the biggest antitrust penalty in its history yesterday, fining six firms including Philips, LG Electronics and Panasonic a total of €1.47bn (£1.2bn) for running two cartels.

The Commission said executives from the European and Asian companies met until six years ago to fix prices and divide up markets for TV and computer monitor cathode-ray tubes, technology now mostly made obsolete by flat screens.

Between 1996 and 2006 they met in Paris, Rome, Amsterdam and in Asia for green meetings, so-called because they often ended in a round of golf.

“These cartels for cathode-ray tubes are textbook cartels: they feature all the worst kinds of anti-competitive behaviour that are strictly forbidden to companies doing business in Europe,” EU competition commissioner Joaquin Almunia said.

The EU antitrust regulator imposed the biggest penalties on Philips for its role in the price fixing and carving up of markets. The Dutch-based firm was fined €313.4m and faces a further penalty through a joint venture. But chief executive Frans van Houten said the group would challenge what he called the disproportionate and unjustified penalty. LG Electronics must pay €295.6m plus its share of a joint venture penalty, followed by Panasonic which was fined €157.5m. The Japanese firm said it might also make a legal challenge. Philips sold the business that committed the infringement in 2001 but said it would make a provision of €509m in the fourth quarter for the fine.