LCD TV Makers Penalized In China For Price-Fixing
January 4, 2013

LCD TV Makers Penalized In China For Price-Fixing

Michael Harper for — Your Universe Online

LCD television manufacturers who have been previously convicted of price-fixing have now met justice in China.

LG, Samsung and 4 other Taiwanese companies have been fined a total of $56 million for fixing the prices of their flat-panel TVs.  Part of their penalty involves paying back Chinese television manufacturers who paid too much for their LCDs. This ruling also marks the first time a foreign company has been penalized for antitrust laws in China, according to ZDNet. And among those being fined, is Apple partner AU Optronics.

These companies have before been found to hold meetings called “Crystal Conferences” wherein they would discuss and set their prices.

According to China's National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC), who handed down these fines, these companies held at least 53 such crystal conferences between 2001 and 2006.

"Those involved turned out to have negotiated prices or manipulated prices [of the screens], hampering legitimate rights and interests of other parties and consumers," explained a commission official.

These companies will now have to pay money back to those TV makers they had previously conspired against. Out of the total fine to be paid, $27 million will have to be paid back to TV makers Changhong Electric, Konka Group, Skyworth Group and TCL Corp.

LG and Samsung– two companies which also make televisions– are said to have been fined the largest amount, in excess of $18 million and $16 million, respectively.

All told, the commission has found that some 5.15 million LCD panels were sold in China underneath these monopolistic practices.

According to Chinese news site Shina (as translated by Google), LG sold the bulk of these panels, moving 1.93 million LCD displays to unsuspecting companies. Samsung sold their fair share, moving 826,500 screens during this time.

LG and the 4 Taiwanese companies have told the commission they plan to strictly adhere to Chinese regulations. These companies have also pledged to extend the unpaid warranty service period of those Chinese TV makers in questions from 18 months to 36 months.

In a comment to ZDNet, an LG spokesperson has said they will work to avoid these kinds of practices again.

"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,” said the spokesperson.

Samsung declined to comment.

These companies have been found guilty in other countries for the same practices carried out in the same Crystal Conferences.

AU Optronics, for instance, was convicted by the US Department of Justice last March. In September, the DOJ asked a federal judge to fine the Taiwanese company $1 billion for participating in the scheme.

In addition to handing down such a heavy fine, the DOJ also sought a 10-year sentence and an additional $1 million in fines for 2 executives who were particularly instrumental in this price fixing scheme.

The South Korean Fair Trade Commission also brought similar charges against LG, Samsung and 3 other companies last March.