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European Commission investigates price fixing on CD/DVD disk drives

The European Commission has informed thirteen companies supplying optical disk drives in the European Economic Area of its preliminary view that they may have infringed EU antitrust rules by participating in a worldwide cartel. The Commission has concerns that those suppliers may have coordinated their behaviour in bidding events organised by two major original equipment manufacturers for optical disk drives used in personal computers (desktops and notebooks) and in servers.

The Commission takes the preliminary view that the companies concerned engaged for at least five years in bid rigging, which is one of the most serious breaches of EU antitrust rules. This behaviour, if established, may have ultimately affected customers that bought optical disk drives manufactured by the companies concerned.

A statement of objections is a formal step in Commission investigations into suspected violations of EU rules that prohibit cartels and restrictive business practices. The duration of cartel investigations varies according to the complexity of the case, the number of markets and companies involved and whether they cooperate with the Commission.

If, after the parties have exercised their right of defence, the Commission concludes that there is sufficient evidence of an infringement it can issue a decision prohibiting the conduct and impose a fine of up to 10 % of a company's annual worldwide turnover. This is without prejudice to a company's ability to receive full immunity for being the first to reveal information about a cartel or to receive a reduction in its fine for supplying evidence of significant added value according to the Commission's Leniency Notice.

Philips said it was granted immunity from fines after the European Union sent its formal antitrust complaints for being the first to come forward with evidence of potential wrongdoing.

The US authorities launched their own probe into the sale of optical disc drives and last year charged a joint venture between Hitachi and LG Electronics for allegedly fixing prices.

Story filed 03.08.12

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