EU imposes record €1.5 billion fine for CRT cartel

Six firms, including Philips, LG and Samsung, fixed CRT prices for nearly a decade

5 Dec 2012

The European Commission has imposed the biggest antitrust penalty in its history, fining six firms including Philips, LG and Samsung a total of €1.47 billion for running two cartels for nearly a decade.

The Commission said executives from the European and Asian companies met until six years ago to fix prices and divide up markets for CRT TVs and monitors, technology now mostly obsolete.

Between 1996 and 2006 they met in Paris, Rome, Amsterdam and Asia for "green meetings", so-called because they often ended in a round of golf.

The EU antitrust regulator imposed the biggest penalty, of €313.4 million, on Philips for its role in fixing prices and carving up markets. LG must pay the second biggest fine, set at €295.6 million.

These cartels for cathode-ray tubes are 'textbook cartels': they feature all the worst kinds of anti-competitive behaviour

"These cartels for cathode-ray tubes are 'textbook cartels': they feature all the worst kinds of anti-competitive behaviour that are strictly forbidden to companies doing business in Europe," EU Competition Commissioner Joaquin Almunia said in a statement.

Taiwanese firm Chunghwa Picture Tubes blew the whistle on the cartels and escaped a fine.

The Commission also fined Panasonic €157.5 million, Samsung €150.8 million, Toshiba €28 million, and French company Technicolor €38.6 million. A joint venture between Philips and LG was penalized €391.9 million, while two Panasonic joint ventures were also sanctioned.

Almunia said the violations were especially harmful for consumers, as cathode-ray tubes accounted for 50% to 70% of the price of a screen.

Philips Chief Executive Frans van Houten said the group would challenge what he called the disproportionate and unjustified penalty. Philips sold off the business which committed the infringement in 2001.

The Commission's sanctions followed a total fine of €128.74 million levied last year against four producers of the glass used in cathode-ray tubes.

Chunghwa, Samsung, LG and three other LCD companies were penalized a total €648 million two years ago for taking part in a cartel.

Until now, the Commission's biggest antitrust penalty had been a €1.38 billion fine imposed on participants in a car glass cartel in 2008.

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