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LCD price fixers fined millions by EU

The European Commission has fined a bunch of LCD panel manufacturers a total of €649 million ($856 million) for price fixing.

The five companies - LG, Chunghwa Picture Tubes, AU Optronics, Chimei InnoLux and HannStar Display were deemed to have banded together to operate a cartel which kept the price of LCD panels artificially high for almost five years. Samsung was also found to have been part of the cartel but avoided a fine by grassing up its fellow conspirators, EU competition commissioner Joaquin Almunia said.

The Commission heard that between October 2001 and February 2006 the companies held a series of 'Crystal meetings', at which they agreed at what levels to fix prices.

Chimei was ordered to pay the biggest fine at €300 million, LG will fork out €215 million euros, AU Optronics €116.8 million, Chunghwa €9 million and HannStar €8.1 million.

The different levels of fine reflect the degree to which the companies cooperated with investigators.

"Foreign companies, like European ones, need to understand that if they want to do business in Europe they must play fair," said Almunia. "The companies concerned knew they were breaking competition rules and took steps to conceal their illegal behaviour. The only understanding we will show is for those that come forward to denounce a cartel and help prove its existence."

Ripped-off consumers will be pleased to note that the fines will directly flow into the EU's coffers, they will not pass go and no-one will receive a £200 rebate on their overpriced tellies and monitors.