EU imposes record $1.9 billion cartel fine on Philips, five others

Wed Dec 5, 2012 10:54am EST
 

By Foo Yun Chee

BRUSSELS (Reuters) - The European Commission imposed the biggest antitrust penalty in its history on Wednesday, fining six firms including Philips, LG Electronics and Panasonic a total of 1.47 billion euros ($1.92 billion) for running two cartels for nearly a decade.

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 behavior that are strictly forbidden to companies doing business in Europe," EU Competition Commissioner Joaquin Almunia said in a statement.

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 313.4 million euros and faces a further penalty through a joint venture.

However, Chief Executive Frans van Houten said the group would challenge what he called the disproportionate and unjustified penalty.

LG Electronics of South Korea must pay 295.6 million euros plus its share of a joint venture penalty, followed by Panasonic Corp which was fined 157.5 million.

The Japanese firm said it might also make a legal challenge. "Panasonic believes the EU decision is factually and legally erroneous ... and will carefully review the decision and consider our options for appeal to the European courts," it said.   Continued...

 
The logo of Philips is seen at the company's entrance in Brussels September 11, 2012. REUTERS/Francois Lenoir