South Korea fines six LCD makers for price fixing

Seoul's antitrust watchdog finds the cartel held secret meetings to artificially inflate prices for flat-screen monitors.

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South Korea's antitrust watchdog has fined six LCD makers $176 million for conspiring to artificially inflate prices for flat-screen monitors.

Samsung Electronics and LG Display were among the companies that colluded from 2001 to 2006 to control the prices of panels for TVs and personal computers, the Fair Trade Commission said. The cartel, which also includes AU Optronics, Chimei Innolux, Chunghwa Picture Tubes, and HannStar Display, held 200 secret meetings to discuss cutting or suspending production to prevent prices from declining, the FTC said.

"They colluded on minimum prices of panels, pricing policies on each product type, timing of price increases and a ban on cash rebates," the commission said in a statement, according to a Taipei Times report. "They were aware that such action was illegal and kept their gatherings and information secret."

The firms account for 80 percent of the world's LCD market, the commission said, adding that fines may be adjusted based on each company's sales.

Samsung, the world's largest LCD maker, reportedly said it respected the commission's decision and would abide by the free-trade law. LG, the second largest LCD maker, said it objected to the commission's decision and would appeal to the Seoul High Court.

The probe and fines follow similar findings by EU and U.S. antitrust watchdogs. Last December, the European Commission fined five LCD panel makers about $856 million for being part of a "price fixing cartel."

In 2008, the U.S. Department of Justice charged three LCD makers with engaging in a price-fixing conspiracy. LG Display, Sharp, and Chunghwa Picture Tubes plead guilty to the criminal charges agreed to pay $585 million.

 

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