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LCD Price-Fixing Settlement Agreed For Hitachi, Samsung And Sharp

Nathan Eddy is a contributor to eWeek and TechWeekEurope, covering cloud and BYOD

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Display screen makers will pay up to $37 million in damage compensation to government bodies and the public

Hitachi, Samsung, Sharp and four other display screen makers have agreed to pay $553 million (£358m) to settle a case alleging they illegally conspired to artificially inflate prices for liquid crystal display (LCD) screens used in televisions, computer monitors and laptops.

Multistate action

The corporations – which comprise Chi Mei Innolux, Chunghwa Picture Tubes, Epson Imaging Devices, HannStar Display, Hitachi Displays, Samsung Electronics and Sharp, and certain affiliated entities of each corporation – agreed to pay over $538 million (£348) to settle antitrust claims brought on behalf of consumers, government entities and other public entities by a multistate group of eight attorneys general, and private class-action attorneys.

Separately, five of the companies agreed to pay over $14 million (£9m) to settle civil fine and penalty law claims brought by the states in their law enforcement capacities. The corporations also agreed to engage in antitrust compliance programmes and to co-operate with the states’ on-going prosecution of other industry participants.

“This price-fixing scheme manipulated the playing field for businesses that abide by the rules, and left consumers to pay artificially higher costs for televisions, computers and other electronics,” said New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman.

According to New York’s complaint, Japanese, Korean and Taiwanese manufacturers of thin-film transistor (TFT) LCD panels, together with their US affiliates, engineered a conspiracy to fix prices of these panels and sold millions of them into New York at prices fixed by the cartel.

Under the agreements, the companies will pay up to $37 million (£24m) to compensate government and other public entities for damages resulting from the purchase of TFT-LCD panels. Up to $501 million (£324) will be available for partial refunds to compensate consumers residing in 24 states and the District of Columbia who purchased products containing TFT-LCD panels during the period beginning 1 January, 1999, and continuing through 31 December, 2006. Notice of how to file for partial refunds will be provided to the public at a later date, an office release stated.