On 5 December 2012, the European Commission fined seven companies nearly €1.5 billion for their role in two ten-year long cartels fixing prices, sharing markets, allocating customers and restricting the output of two types of cathode ray tubes used in television and computer monitors. Joaquin Almunia labelled the cartels as ‘textbook’, and the Commission referred to them as “among the most organised cartels that the Commission has investigated”. The auditing of compliance even extended to the cartelists making plant visits to ensure capacity restrictions were being observed.
The cartel operated on a worldwide basis, with meetings held across Asia and Europe and affected both colour display tubes and colour picture tubes. Colour display tubes are used in computer monitors, whilst colour picture tubes are used in colour television screens. As the tubes account for 50-70% of the price of a screen, the Commission believes it has caused serious harm to television and computer screen producers, and ultimately to consumers. Five of the cartel members received reductions under the Leniency Notice, with Chunghwa receiving full immunity from fines in relation to both TV tubes and computer monitor tubes and other reductions ranging from 40% – 10%.
Other articles related to the EU & Competition Law Bulletin for February 2013:
> Court of Justice upholds AstraZeneca abuse of dominance decision
> Statement of Objections in Samsung standard-essential patent case
> Commission conditionally approves acquisition of Orange Austria by Hutchison 3G
> NCAs may take action against anti-competitive agreements which do not meet the thresholds in the Commission’s de minimis notice
> New guidelines in place for assessing State aid for the deployment of broadband
> European Commission accepts commitments in three investigations: Thomas Reuters, RioTinto Alcan, e-book publishers (and Apple)
> German Parliament Adopts Amendment to German Competition Law
> Federal Cartel Office prohibits chemicals traders joint venture previously cleared in merger control
> OFT issues guidance on Competition Act procedures and extends trial of Procedural Adjudicator role
> OFT clears Vodafone/Telefonica site sharing agreement
> OFT concludes that there are no grounds for action in respect of Cathay Pacific/Virgin Atlantic information exchange
> Health and Social Care Act: Competition Law Regime