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 newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.
Rocket to Success - Your 10 Tips for Smarter ERP System Selection

Tags NECsamsungdramtoshibachipshitachiMitsubishihynixeuropean commissionElpidaInfineonNanya

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

Cool Tech

SanDisk MicroSDXC™ for Nintendo® Switch™

Learn more >

Breitling Superocean Heritage Chronographe 44

Learn more >

Toys for Boys

Family Friendly

Panasonic 4K UHD Blu-Ray Player and Full HD Recorder with Netflix - UBT1GL-K

Learn more >

Stocking Stuffer

Razer DeathAdder Expert Ergonomic Gaming Mouse

Learn more >

Christmas Gift Guide

Click for more ›

Most Popular Reviews

Latest Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Edwina Hargreaves

WD My Cloud Home

I would recommend this device for families and small businesses who want one safe place to store all their important digital content and a way to easily share it with friends, family, business partners, or customers.

Walid Mikhael

Brother QL-820NWB Professional Label Printer

It’s easy to set up, it’s compact and quiet when printing and to top if off, the print quality is excellent. This is hands down the best printer I’ve used for printing labels.

Ben Ramsden

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

Brainstorming, innovation, problem solving, and negotiation have all become much more productive and valuable if people can easily collaborate in real time with minimal friction.

Sarah Ieroianni

Brother QL-820NWB Professional Label Printer

The print quality also does not disappoint, it’s clear, bold, doesn’t smudge and the text is perfectly sized.

Ratchada Dunn

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

The Huddle Board’s built in program; Sharp Touch Viewing software allows us to easily manipulate and edit our documents (jpegs and PDFs) all at the same time on the dashboard.

George Khoury

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

The biggest perks for me would be that it comes with easy to use and comprehensive programs that make the collaboration process a whole lot more intuitive and organic

Featured Content

Product Launch Showcase

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?