EU fines Japanese firms over price-fixing cartel for capacitors


The European Commission said Wednesday it imposed €254 million in fines on eight firms, mostly Japanese companies, for operating an illegal price cartel for capacitors.

Of the Japanese companies, Nippon Chemi-Con Corp. was fined €98 million and Hitachi Chemical Co. €18 million. The other targeted firms include Nichicon Corp., Rubycon Corp., Elna Co., Tokin Corp. and Matsuo Electric Co.

Sanyo Electric Co., a unit of electronics giant Panasonic Corp., also joined the cartel but escaped being fined because it reported the misconduct to the EC, the executive branch of the European Union.

Capacitors are used for short-term electricity storage and are used in a wide variety of electronics.

The commission said its investigation found that from 1998 to 2012, the nine companies “participated in multilateral meetings and engaged in bilateral or trilateral contacts to exchange commercially sensitive information,” aiming to coordinate future behavior and avoid price competition.

In particular, the companies exchanged information on future prices, pricing intentions, and on future supply-and-demand information, the commission said. In some cases, they also concluded price agreements and monitored their implementation, it added.

The cartel participants were aware of the anti-competitive nature of their practice, the commission said, citing related messages exchanged between the companies and internal emails, including one that said: “After reading this email, please destroy it without (saving it).”