THE EUROPEAN COMMISSION (EC) competition regulators are weighing fines for Philips, Infineon and Samsung over collusion in the SIM card chip business.
That's according to Reuters and its sources, but is not confirmed by Europe. Such a decision would rest with competition minister Joaquín Almunia, a man who has tackled Google's practices previously. We asked his office for information on the Philips, Infineon and Samsung fines, but it had no comment.
Reuters cites unnamed sources, at least one of whom reckons that it will end this year with the fines. "The companies may be fined in late July or possibly September," said one of the news agency's sources. Another firm that apparently is also involved reportedly will be spared a fine. Reuters said that firm is Renesas Electronics.
The European Commission confirmed the investigation, explaining that it started with raids in 2008 and was announced in 2009.
It said that it turned up at the company premises unannounced with the intention of solving questions about price-fixing and other uncompetitive business tactics.
"These chips are used for the production of smart cards, such as telephone SIM cards, bank cards and identity cards," it said.
"The Commission has reason to believe that the companies concerned may have violated EC Treaty rules prohibiting practices such as price fixing, customer allocation and the exchange of commercially sensitive information."
We have asked the named companies to respond and so far Philips and Infineon have declined. In 2013 Almunia sent a statement of objections to the companies after discussions failed to produce a result. Then he said that he would actively pursue a satisfactory resolution.
"It is not because settlement talks fail that companies get off the hook. The essence of settlement is to benefit from a quicker, more efficient procedure, and to reach a common understanding on the existence and characteristics of a cartel," said Almunia, the commission VP in charge of competition policy.
"If that is not possible, the Commission will not hesitate to revert to the normal procedure and to pursue the suspected infringement." µ