Price-fixin — it isn’t just for book publishers anymore (not that it ever really was unique to that industry, but you get the point): China fined Samsung and LG Displays a total of $35 million charging that the companies fixed the prices of LCD panels that were then sold to TV manufacturers. And if the TV makers are shelling out more for parts, guess who that raised price gets passed on to? Yup, all of us.
Also included in that gang of price-fixers are four other Taiwanese companies, for a total fine damage of $56 million overall, reports Yonhap News Agency (via CNET). From what it sounds like, the companies would get together and hold super secret discussions to make sure they were all getting the most cash from the panels as they could:
“From 2001 to 2006, six companies involved held a total of 53 rounds of ‘Crystal Conferences,’ claiming that they exchange information on the global LCD panel market,” an official with the National Development and Reform Commission said, according to Yonhap News. “Those involved turned out to have negotiated prices or manipulated prices, hampering the legitimate rights and interests of other parties and consumers.”
Nine of those TV manufacturers will receive a refund of $27 million total from the money collected for the fines. It’s unclear if those refunds will be passed down to consumers who purchased those TVs.
Samsung is staying mum on the issue, but an LG spokesman said the company is working on making sure this doesn’t happen again, saying: “to prevent a recurrence of such problems, LG Display has been mending policies and executing them, and remains committed to operating with compliance and transparency.”
It isn’t just China that’s taking the display makers to task for this band of brothers in price-fixing. Samsung, Hitachi, Sharp, LG Displays, Toshiba, Chunghwa Picture Tubes, HannStar Display Corp., Chi Mei Optoelectronics, and AU Optronics recently settled a lawsuit that claimed they had started a price-fixing club back in the late ’90s and early aughts. Attorneys general of 24 states and the District of Columbia reached a $1.1 billion settlement with those manufacturers, awarding customers payouts of around $25 (or more in some cases) in 2012.
Five other companies (including LG again, tsk tsk) had to pay a $856 million after the European Commission dubbed them a “price fixing cartel.” In that case, Samsung was in trouble but then played the part of an informer to avoid being fined.