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EU fines LCD makers for 'price fixing cartel'

Six LCD panel makers, including LG Display, are hit with total fines of about $856 million. Samsung was also cited, but was immune from fines for having been "first to provide information" on the group.

LG Display

Five LCD panel makers have been fined, and another has been cited, for what the European Union calls a "price fixing cartel."

LG Display, AU Optronics, Chimei InnoLux, Chunghwa Picture Tubes, and HannStar Display were fined nearly 649 million euros (about $856 million) by the European Commission, the EU's enforcement arm, for what it determined to be price fixing on LCD panels between October 2001 and February 2006. Samsung was also cited, but was immune from fines due to the company being "the first to provide information about the cartel."

Chimei InnoLux received the largest fine, totaling 300 million euros. LG Display was fined 215 million euros.

According to the European Commission, over a four-year period, "the companies agreed prices, including price ranges and minimum prices." In addition, the Commission said that the companies "exchanged information" on production and other important aspects of creating LCD panels, and that the companies met approximately 60 times to discuss the panel business, dubbing their conferences "the Crystal Meetings."

The European Commission's fines follow a similarly strong reaction against some of these companies by the U.S. Department of Justice.

In 2008, LG Display and Chunghwa, along with Sharp, which was not cited in the European Commission's fines, pleaded guilty to fixing prices on LCD panels. The companies were forced to pay $585 million by the Department of Justice, with LG Display getting hit with the largest fine, at $400 million. Sharp agreed to pay $120 million after pleading guilty.

The companies' panels were sold to Dell, Motorola, and Apple, among others.

Late last year, lawsuits started flying against some of the firms with both AT&T and Nokia suing Samsung, LG Display and other panel makers, alleging that the companies artificially inflated prices on LCD panels. Dell quickly followed those lawsuits up with one of its own earlier this year. That suit took aim at Sharp, Hitachi, Toshiba, and others, accusing the firms of collusion on LCD panel pricing.

Neither Samsung nor LG Display immediately responded to request for comment.