In the latest round of LCD-screen price fixing settlements, AU Optronics, LG Display, and Toshiba agreed to pay over £350 million to settle antitrust claims in a multi-state suit led by New York Attorney General (AG) Eric Schneiderman.
All three firms were charged with illegally conspiring to boost prices of screens used in TV sets, computer monitors, and laptops. Two of the three companies, unnamed by the AG's office, agreed to pay around £18 million in fines and penalties to the eight US states involved in the case.
"The price-fixing scheme created an unlevel playing field for businesses that abide by the rules," Schneiderman said in a statement, "and left consumers paying artificially higher costs for televisions, computers, and other electronics."
The state alleged that from 1999 to 2006, a number of Asian manufacturers of thin film transistor (TFT) LCD panels, in cooperation with their American affiliates, conspired to fix prices of their products, before selling them to New York retailers. All TFT-LCD panels sold in the state during that time were bought at illegally fixed high prices, the Attorney General's office said.
Schneiderman's office secured deals on seven other price-fixing cases back in December 2011. With today's settlement, payments will top £700 million. As a result, at least £448 million will be used to refund customers who were affected by the scheme, including nearly £6.5 million for New York residents.
The companies will also hand over £5 million in penalties to the New York State treasury, while NY government agencies that purchased price-fixed products will get another £5 million in partial refunds. Other states will get £22 million in penalties and £15.5 million in partial refunds.
"Protecting the integrity of the marketplace is the only way to ensure the best outcome for New York's consumers," Schneiderman said.
An out-of-court deal was struck early this month between Sharp and Dell, who were caught in the price-fixing battle, until electronics maker Sharp agreed to pay nearly £130 million settlement.
A week earlier, Toshiba was fined £56 million based on a California district court ruling.