Electronics firms fined for cartel activity

21 May 2010

21 May 2010 | Andrea Klettner

The European Commission has secured a settlement against a group of memory chip manufacturers.

US-based Micron revealed the existence of the cartel to the commission in 2004. While the decision is still addressed to the company, it received full immunity from fines, escaping any part of the €331 million (£285 million) fine.

The remaining firms including Samsung, NEC, Hitachi, Mitsubishi, Nanya, Elpida, Hynix, Infineon and Toshiba received a 10 per cent reduction in their fines for admitting to taking part in illegal cartel activity.

An investigation found the cartel was in operation between 1 July 1998 and 15 June 2002. It involved a network of contacts and sharing of secret information, through which the price levels of dynamic random access memory chips were controlled.

These were sold on to major PC and server manufacturers in the European Economic Area (EEA). Although the case was also investigated in the US, the fines only relate to activity in the EEA.

Samsung, which received the largest fine, said in a statement: "Samsung accepts the findings of the commission's inquiry and is committed to conducting its business operations in full compliance."

Commission vice-president and competition commissioner Joaquín Almunia, said: “This is another milestone in the commission’s anti-cartel enforcement. By acknowledging their participation in a cartel the companies have allowed the commission to bring this long-running investigation to a close and to free up resources to investigate other suspected cartels.”

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