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Panasonic fined £40m for conspiring to fix prices

Panasonic has pleaded guilty to diddling us punters by fixing the prices of laptop batteries and car parts.

Looks like someone's been a naughty boy. Panasonic and its subsidiary Sanyo have admitted they were involved in conspiracies to fix the prices of laptop battery packs and car parts.

The Japanese giant will pay a total of $56.5 million (£37 million) in criminal fines, the US Department of Justice said in a new release. Of that, Sanyo will pay $10.7 million, while Panasonic will pay $45.8 million. Ouch.

The scam goes all way back to 1998, for the portion of the case relating to automotive parts, anyway.

More tech companies were involved as well. Sanyo worked with its rival LG Chem to fix the prices of cylindrical lithium ion battery packs used in laptops. They all agreed to sell batteries to computer companies for exactly the same price. This happened from at least 2007 to 2008, according to the Department of Justice.

For its part, LG Chem will pay a $1.056 million criminal fine.

As well as these fines, some of the individuals involved will go to prison for sentences between a year and a day, to two years each.

On the car side of things, Panasonic worked with other companies to "fix, stabilise, and maintain the prices" of lighting equipment it sold to Honda, Mazda and Nissan. It also worked with these companies to fix prices of switches and sensors for steering wheels, doors, windscreen wipers, indicators, and more, all of which were sold to Toyota.

The result? Higher prices for consumers. "The conduct of Panasonic, Sanyo, and LG Chem resulted in inflated production costs for notebook computers and cars purchased by US consumers," FBI official Joseph S. Campbell said in a statement from the Department of Justice.

But it's not US consumers who were affected. The laptops and cars were sold "in the United States and elsewhere" according to the Department of Justice. So us Brits could have paid higher prices, too.

Is the punishment harsh enough? Let me know in the comments, or on our Facebook page.