Europe fines nine chipmakers €331M over price fixing

The fines were reduced, however, since the nine companies admitted participating in a cartel

European antitrust regulators fined nine semiconductor manufacturers more than €331 million (US$404 million) on Wednesday following a years-long investigation into price fixing in the market for DRAM memory chips.

The European Commission said all of the companies submitted settlements admitting their liability for infringement. The companies fined are Samsung Electronics, Infineon, Hynix Semiconductor, Elpida Memory, NEC Electronics, Hitachi, Toshiba, Mitsubishi Electric and Nanya Technology.

A tenth company, Micron, escaped a fine since it told the Commission about the cartel in 2002. Four of the companies -- Infineon, Hynix, Samsung, Elpida and NEC -- applied for leniency, which reduced their fine. All of the companies received a 10 percent reduction for settling the case.

Joaquín Almunia, vice president of competition policy for the Commission, sought to allay concerns that the companies' settlement with the Commission diluted the effects of their actions.

"You may think that to use the word 'settlement' next to the word 'cartel' sounds quite strange," Almunia said. "So let me explain right away that we are not compromising on cartels, with or without a settlement. A cartel is the worst violation of competition rules since its object is to collude against the interests of other companies and of consumers."

It the first time the Commission used a settlement procedure put in place in 2008. The Commission says the procedure allows it to speed up investigations if companies acknowledge a violation. Resources can then be moved to investigate other suspected cartels, Alumunia said.

The collective fine amounts to €331,273,800. Samsung was fined the most, at €145.7 million, followed by Infineon at €56.7 million and Hynix Semiconductor at €51.5 million.

The cartel operated between July 1, 1998, and June 15, 2002, and "involved a network of contacts and sharing of secret information, mostly on a bilateral basis, through which they coordinated the price levels and quotations for DRAMs," the Commission said in a statement.

NEC said its €10.3 million fine would not affect its May 12 financial forecast covering its fiscal 2010 results. Infineon, which must pay €56.7 million, said it had no comment. Other companies contacted did not have an immediate comment.

U.S. regulators fined several companies for DRAM price fixing in 2004 and 2005. Samsung Electronics pleaded guilty and was fined US$300 million for conspiracy to fix prices in the DRAM market, according to the U.S. Department of Justice.

Hynix also pleaded guilty and was ordered to pay $185 million in May 2005. Infineon was fined $160 million. Four Infineon executives also pleaded guilty to the price-fixing conspiracy, serving prison terms of between four and six months and paying a $250,000 fine.

Join the Good Gear Guide newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.

Tags NanyachipsElpidaInfineonhynixtoshibaMitsubishihitachiNECsamsungdrameuropean commission

Our Back to Business guide highlights the best products for you to boost your productivity at home, on the road, at the office, or in the classroom.

Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Jeremy Kirk

IDG News Service
Show Comments

Essentials

Microsoft L5V-00027 Sculpt Ergonomic Keyboard Desktop

Learn more >

Lexar® JumpDrive® S57 USB 3.0 flash drive

Learn more >

Mobile

Lexar® JumpDrive® S45 USB 3.0 flash drive 

Learn more >

Exec

Audio-Technica ATH-ANC70 Noise Cancelling Headphones

Learn more >

Lexar® Professional 1800x microSDHC™/microSDXC™ UHS-II cards 

Learn more >

HD Pan/Tilt Wi-Fi Camera with Night Vision NC450

Learn more >

Lexar® JumpDrive® C20c USB Type-C flash drive 

Learn more >

Budget

Back To Business Guide

Click for more ›

Most Popular Reviews

Latest News Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Azadeh Williams

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

A smarter way to print for busy small business owners, combining speedy printing with scanning and copying, making it easier to produce high quality documents and images at a touch of a button.

Andrew Grant

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

I've had a multifunction printer in the office going on 10 years now. It was a neat bit of kit back in the day -- print, copy, scan, fax -- when printing over WiFi felt a bit like magic. It’s seen better days though and an upgrade’s well overdue. This HP OfficeJet Pro 8730 looks like it ticks all the same boxes: print, copy, scan, and fax. (Really? Does anyone fax anything any more? I guess it's good to know the facility’s there, just in case.) Printing over WiFi is more-or- less standard these days.

Ed Dawson

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

As a freelance writer who is always on the go, I like my technology to be both efficient and effective so I can do my job well. The HP OfficeJet Pro 8730 Inkjet Printer ticks all the boxes in terms of form factor, performance and user interface.

Michael Hargreaves

Windows 10 for Business / Dell XPS 13

I’d happily recommend this touchscreen laptop and Windows 10 as a great way to get serious work done at a desk or on the road.

Aysha Strobbe

Windows 10 / HP Spectre x360

Ultimately, I think the Windows 10 environment is excellent for me as it caters for so many different uses. The inclusion of the Xbox app is also great for when you need some downtime too!

Mark Escubio

Windows 10 / Lenovo Yoga 910

For me, the Xbox Play Anywhere is a great new feature as it allows you to play your current Xbox games with higher resolutions and better graphics without forking out extra cash for another copy. Although available titles are still scarce, but I’m sure it will grow in time.

Featured Content

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?