Six manufacturers of LCD panels, including Samsung and LG, have been fined €648m for pre-agreeing pricing, supplying and future production runs of the widely used digital display components.
On Wednesday the European Commission announced that Samsung, LG Display, AU Optronics, Chimei Innolux Corporation, Chunghwa Picture Tubes and HannStar Display Corporation were all being fined for their involvement in the price-fixing cartel between October 2001 and February 2006.
"The companies concerned knew they were breaking competition rules and took steps to conceal their illegal behaviour. The only understanding we will show is for those that come forward to denounce a cartel and help prove its existence," the Commission's vice president for competition policy Joaquín Almunia said in a statement.
Liquid crystal display (LCD) panels are crucial components for the flat display screens used by televisions, computer monitors, notebooks and smartphones. The cartel's decisions affected European consumers, the Commission said, because the "vast majority" of devices incorporating the LCD panels that were sold in the EU came from Asia.
The six companies met around 60 times over the four-year period in what they privately called the "crystal meetings", according to the Commission. Mostly, they met in hotels in Taiwan.
Samsung's fine was offset by 100 percent because it had brought the cartel to the attention of the Commission and provided information to prove that infringement had occurred.
LG Display had its fine cut by 50 percent to reflect its 'cooperation' with the Commission and received 'partial immunity' for 2006 as it was the first of the six companies to provide evidence to the Commission that the cartel had operated beyond 2005. In total LG's fine was €215m (£180m).
By co-operating with the Commission in its investigation, AU Optronics received a 20-percent reduction in its fine, giving it a total fine of €116m. Chunghwa Picture Tubes received a five percent reduction, giving it a total fine of €9m.
Chimei Innolux Corporation did not have its fine reduced and was fined €300m. HannStar Display Corporation also had no reduction and was fined €8m.
Though the fines have been levied, persons or firms who feel they have been affected by the anti-competitive behaviour can still bring the matter before the courts of the EU member states and seek damages, according to the Commission.
In May the Commission fined nine producers of DRAM memory chips for their involvement in a price-fixing cartel that operated between 1998 and 2002.