22 November 2007 | Paul Snell
The European Commission has fined three firms more than ?74 million (£53 million) for fixing the price of videotapes.
The commission said Sony, Fuji and Maxell, who share more than 85 per cent of the professional videotape market, had fixed prices on tapes sold to TV stations and producers through a series of meetings and contacts between 1999 and 2002.
The cartel involved the two most popular types of tape used at the time, Betacam SP and Digital Betacam, a market worth around ?115 million (£82.7 million) in Europe.
While Maxell and Fuji co-operated with the commission's enquiry, a Sony employee refused to answer questions asked by EU inspectors, and another staff member was found to be shredding documents during the investigation.
Because of this, Sony was fined more than ?47 million (£33.8 million), and Fuji and Maxell were fined just over ?13 million (£9.3 million) and ?14 million (£10 million) respectively.
Neelie Kroes, EC competition commissioner, said in a statement: "This decision sends two warnings to companies engaging in cartel activities. First, the commission can prosecute cartels effectively, even without prompts from immunity applicants, and second, obstructing a commission antitrust investigation leads to severe penalties."
The OFT recently asked for the help of buyers in reporting cartels, asking them to look out for suspicious behaviour from suppliers (News, 15 November).