THE KOREAN FAIR TRADE COMMISSION (KFTC) has fined Samsung, LG and several other Thin Film Transistor Liquid Crystal Display (TFT-LCD) makers a total of 194 billion won (£108.7 million) for price-fixing several years ago.
The cartel operated from September 2001 to 2006, with all 10 manufacturers agreeing to fix prices and reduce ouput of TFT-LCD panels. Secret meetings were held by company leaders in Korea and Taiwan on a monthly basis to discuss price changes and exchange market analysis information and trade secrets.
The companies took the price fixing to such an extent that they gave out sanctions to those that failed to comply. In fact, the cartel even went so far as providing the media with false market supply and demand information to artificially boost prices, further harming consumers.
The KFTC argued that since the meetings were kept secret all parties were well aware of the illegality of their acts, which was taken into consideration when fines were being assessed.
Samsung received the highest fines, with its Korean wing being fined 96.1bn won (£53.7m), nearly half of the total penalty. Its Taiwan operation was fined 490m won (£274,000) and its Japanese unit was fined 690m won (£386,000).
LG received the second highest fine, with its Korean operation being fined 65.2 billion won (£36.5 million). Its Japanese wing was fined 300m won (£168,000) and its Taiwanese company was fined 70m won (£39,000).
AU Optronics came in third, with fines of 28.5bn won (£16m). Chi Mei Innolux was fined 1.6bn won (£867,000). Hannstar was fined 870m won (£486,000), and Chungwa Picture Tubes was fined the lowest amount at 290m won (£162,000).
The KFTC said that the fines might vary based on a number of factors, including leniancy, but it did not say by how much the figures might be adjusted. What is interesting is that Samsung has gotten off scot-free for this cartel in other investigations, such as a European Commission probe in December of last year, due to ratting out the other members of the operation and providing valuable information, securing it extreme leniancy. This time, however, it seems that Samsung will have to fork over the highest amount.
"The Commission is fully committed to pursuing those who conspired to harm Korean businesses and consumers," the KFTC said. µ
Sign up for INQbot – a weekly roundup of the best from the INQ