LCD makers agree $388m settlement in alleged price fixing case

By Lee Kaelin on December 9, 2011, 9:30 AM

Several LCD manufacturers have agreed to pay an estimated $388 million to settle a civil lawsuit over alleged price fixing in the liquid crystal display panel market, according to court documents cited by Bloomberg.

The class action lawsuit, filed in 2007, covered the usage of LCD's in computer displays and televisions. According to the plaintiffs, the involved companies fixed prices of the panels, which subsequently drove up pricing for consumers buying products containing said panels between 1999 and 2006.

For their involvement in the alleged price fixing, Samsung was fined $82.7 million, Sharp $105 million, LG Display $75 million, Hitachi $28 million and Chimei paid $78 million. The settlements will be subject to final approval later this month, although interestingly it includes a denial of guilt from all of the aforementioned firms as part of the settlement.

This is just the latest round of fines over price fixing in the LCD market. In October, South Korea fined six LCD makers, including LG and Samsung, a total of $176 million for colluding to control LCD panel prices between 2001 and 2006. They were accused of illegally exchanging information on minimum prices for panels, pricing policies in panel categories and preventing cash rebates. It was pointed out that the firms were aware these practices are illegal and took deliberate and calculated steps to keep communications and meetings secret.

Last December in Europe the very same firms were also found guilty of operating a price fixing cartel in a nearly identical case, resulting in fines of around €650 million. In 2008, LG Display, Chunghwa and Sharp all pleaded guilty to price fixing and were ordered by the U.S. Justice Department to pay $585 million -- of which the largest portion, $400 million, was payable by LG Display alone.

The underhanded tactics used by the display manufacturers also severely impacted several other markets and multiple companies. After frustrations and anger clearly boiled over, AT&T and Nokia both sued multiple panel makers, including LG and Samsung, accusing them of artificially inflating panel prices. Last year Dell also filed a lawsuit against several firms accusing them of collusion on LCD panel pricing.

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