BRUSSELS – Philips, LG Electronics, Samsung SDI and three other firms were fined a record 1.47 billion euros ($1.92 billion) by EU antitrust regulators for fixing prices of TV and monitor cathode-ray tubes for nearly a decade.
The European Commission slapped the biggest penalty, of 313.4 million euros, on Dutch-based Philips on Wednesday. LG Electronics came in second with a 295.6 million euro fine.
The EU competition authority fined Panasonic Corp 157.5 million euros, Samsung SDI 150.8 million euros, Toshiba Corp. 28 million euros, and French company Technicolor 38.6 million euros.
Two Panasonic joint ventures were also fined. Taiwanese firm Chunghwa Picture Tubes blew the whistle on the cartels in TV and computer monitors and escaped a fine.
The two cartels, one involving TVs and the other computer monitors, operated worldwide between 1996 and 2006, during which company executives discussed how to fix prices and share markets at "green meetings", so-called because the events often ended with a round of golf.
"These cartels for cathode ray tubes are 'textbook cartels': they feature all the worst kinds of anti-competitive behavior that are strictly forbidden to companies doing business in Europe," EU Competition Commissioner Joaquin Almunia said in a statement.
He said the violations were especially harmful for consumers, as cathode ray tubes accounted for 50 to 70 percent of the price of a screen.
Cathode ray tubes have largely been replaced by more advanced display technologies such as liquid-crystal display (LCD), plasma display and organic light-emitting diodes.
The biggest fine prior to the cathode-ray tube cartel was 1.38 billion euros imposed on participants in a car glass cartel in 2008.
The Commission's sanctions followed a total fine of 128.74 million euros levied last year against four producers of the glass used in cathode-ray tubes.
And Chunghwa Picture Tubes, Samsung Electronics, LG Display and three other LCD companies were penalized a total 648 million euros two years ago for taking part in a cartel.
($1 = 0.7642 euros)
(Reporting by Foo Yun Chee; editing by Rex Merrifield)