EU fines Toshiba, Panasonic, four others for cathode ray tube cartel

Kyodo

The European Union on Wednesday imposed record cartel fines of €1.47 billion (about ¥160 billion) on six companies, including Toshiba Corp. and Panasonic Corp., claiming they fixed global prices for TV and computer monitor cathode ray tubes over a 10-year period.

The European Commission ruled that a total of seven consumer appliance makers in Asia and Europe artificially set prices, divvied up the market between them and adjusted cathode ray tube production from 1996 to 2006 in breach of EU competition laws.

Panasonic was fined €157.47 million (around ¥17 billion), while Toshiba was slapped with a €28.04 million (¥3 billion) fine. Four of the other five companies were also punished, including Samsung SDI and LG Electronics of South Korea.

A Taiwanese firm escaped a fine because it was the first to blow the whistle on the cartel to the European Union.

In a statement, the European Commission said the companies’ actions demonstrated “all the worst kinds of anticompetitive behavior that are strictly forbidden to companies doing business in Europe,” noting top executives of the companies were involved in the price-fixing scheme.

Both Panasonic and Toshiba questioned the commission’s findings.

“After fully examining the content of the European Commission’s decision, we will consider how to deal with this with an eye to filing a lawsuit with a court of the EU,” Panasonic said in a statement.

Toshiba reiterated its assertion that there had been no breach of EU competition law with regard to its cathode ray tube business, and said it is “regrettable” that its claims were rejected.

TV and computer monitor screens have been replaced with liquid crystal and plasma displays, and production of cathode ray tubes has almost ended.