China has imposed penalties totalling US$56m on South Korean and Taiwanese LCD display panel manufacturers for price-fixing.
Among the six are two South Korean firms - LG Display and Samsung Display - and four based in Taiwan: AU Optronics, Chi Mei Corp, Chunghwa Picture Tubes and HannStar Display Corp.
LG Display was fined $18.7 million, Samsung Display $15.9 million, Chi Mei $14.9 million, AU Optronics $3.5 million, Chunghwa $2.6 million and HannStar $38,000.
The fines included penalties and payment to Chinese customers and other charges.
Chen Yu, a senior official at the National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC) in Beijing, said the punishment was a landmark move as it was the first time that China had imposed penalties on foreign companies for price fixing.
“This should serve as a warning to others that China will not tolerate such unhealthy practices,” Chen said.
NDRC said none of the companies have disputed the fines, neither has there been any indication that they would appeal.
Between 2001 and 2006 managers from the six suppliers met every quarter to set prices of display panels, during which time supply exceeded demand resulting in a drop in market prices. During that period cartel members sold a total of 5.14 million LCD screens.
A statement issued by NRDC indicated that the display makers manipulated market prices and damaged the lawful interests of other companies and consumers.
The culprits’ activities were not confined to the Chinese market. US and European Union investigations have uncovered similar transgressions over the same period.
AU Optronics was ordered to pay $500 million by a US court in one of the largest anti-trust settlements while Samsung, Sharp and six other manufacturers of panels for TV and computers paid $388 to settle price-fixing claims by direct purchasers.
Nearly all of the world’s mobile phones and PCs are assembled in China.
Sixty per cent of the world’s television sets are also produced in China, making it a major market for display screens and other components imported from South Korea, Taiwan and other Asian countries.