Seoul’s antitrust agency said yesterday it had fined 10 of the world’s leading flat panel makers in Taiwan and South Korea a total of 194 billion won (US$175 million) for price fixing.
Firms, including AU Optronics Corp (友達光電) and Chimei Innolux Corp (奇美電子) from Taiwan, and Samsung Electronics and LG Display in South Korea colluded from 2001 to 2006 to control prices of panels for computers and televisions, the South Korean Fair Trade Commission 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.
The offenders also included Taiwanese and Japanese units of both Samsung Electronics and LG Display, as well as Taiwan’s Chunghwa Picture Tubes Ltd (中華映管) and HannStar Display Crop (瀚宇彩晶), it said.
Officials from the firms involved held about 200 secret meetings over six years to agree on cutting or suspending production to prevent prices from falling and to exchange confidential information such as sales plans, it said.
“They were aware that such action was illegal and kept their gatherings and information secret,” the statement said.
The firms have a combined 80 percent share in the global LCD market, the commission said, adding that the cartel hurt consumers by increasing prices of computers, laptops and televisions.
Samsung Electronics, the world’s top flat-screen maker, and its overseas units were slapped with the heaviest fine of 97.2 billion won, followed by 65.5 billion won for LG Display and its foreign affiliates.
The fines by the commission — the largest it has ever imposed for a case of international price fixing — came three years after several major Asian LCD makers, including LG, were fined after a similar US probe.
In December last year, the European Commission also fined six Asian makers of LCD screens a total of 649 million euros (US$860 million at the time) for operating for almost five years as a cartel.
Samsung said it respected the regulator’s decision and would abide by it.
However, LG Display said it opposed the ruling and would appeal to the Seoul court to reduce the fine on the grounds that it had fully cooperated with the investigation.