BRUSSELS – The European Commission imposed a 149 million euros (18 billion yen) fine Wednesday on Nintendo Co., saying a 30-month probe confirmed that the GameCube maker engaged in unfair trade practices during the 1990s in violation of European Union antitrust rules.
The commission, the executive body of the 15-member union, also imposed 18.7 million euros (2.26 billion yen) in fines on seven official distributors of Nintendo products, including Itochu Corp., for taking part in “a cartel-like arrangement” with the aim of partitioning the single European market.
Itochu, fined 4.5 million euros (545 million yen), imported Nintendo products to Greece until 1997 through its Greek affiliate.
In Japan, a spokesman for Kyoto-based Nintendo said the company will file an appeal against the fine, which it contends is too high. The fine is the fourth-largest ever imposed by the EU on an individual firm for a single infringement.
The spokesman said Nintendo has admitted to the allegation and has “promised and implemented measures to reinforce compliance.”
Apart from Itochu, the six other distributors fined are John Menzies PLC, Concentra-Produtos para criancas SA, Linea GIG SpA, Bergsala AB, Nortec A.E. and CD-Contact Data GmbH.
In May 2000, the commission launched a formal investigation into the firms’ distribution practices. According to the commission, Nintendo and the seven partners divvied up the European market to artificially inflate prices on Nintendo game consoles and video games throughout the 1990s.
As a result, consumers in countries where Nintendo products were expensive could not benefit from low-priced, parallel imported products, it said.
Mario Monti, European commissioner in charge of competition policy, said in a release that families in Europe “have the right to buy the games and consoles at the lowest price the market can possibly offer and we will not tolerate collusive behavior intended to keep prices artificially high.”
The most striking price differences were observed in early 1996, when certain Nintendo products in Britain were up to 65 percent cheaper than those in Germany and the Netherlands, the commission said.
Nintendo imports and sells its products without distributors in Germany, the Netherlands, France and Spain.
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