Mitsubishi Electric, Toshiba Cartel Fines Annulled by Court

Mitsubishi Electric Corp. and Toshiba Corp. won a European Union court challenge to overturn fines of 118.6 million euros ($164.8 million) and 90.9 million euros, respectively, that were levied in a case over electrical equipment pricing.

The EU General Court in Luxembourg today said the European Commission, the 27-nation EU’s antitrust regulator, fined Asian companies more harshly than European competitors in the cartel case. The court also reduced a 2.4 million-euro fine for Fuji Electric Co. to 2.2 million euros and upheld a 50.4 million-euro penalty on Hitachi Ltd.

“The commission infringed the principle of equal treatment,” the court said in a statement, deciding that the EU regulator had treated the European and the Japanese members in the cartel unequally.

The commission fined 10 companies including Areva SA and Alstom SA, a total of 750.7 million euros in January 2007 for fixing prices and carving up the market for gas-insulated switchgear, used to control electrical flow. Siemens AG, Europe’s largest engineering company, lost a court appeal in March against its 396.6 million-euro fine, the highest in the cartel.

The court in March also cut to 48.2 million euros from 53.5 million euros a joint penalty against Areva SA and Alstom SA. A separate fine for Alstom was cut from 11.5 million euros to 10.3 million euros.

‘Essential Information’

For Fuji Electric the court said the commission failed to consider “essential information” that had been submitted by the company when calculating the fine.

Mitsubishi Electric said in a statement that the company will consider the ruling carefully. Toshiba spokesman Keisuke Omori also said the company would review the ruling.

The commission in 2007 said 11 companies began in 1988 to collude on prices and projects for electrical-network equipment, continuing to do so until 2004. ABB Ltd., the world’s largest maker of power-transmission gear, tipped off the EU and therefore escaped a 215.2 million-euro fine.

ABB earlier this month was among at least 10 power-cable manufacturers to receive an EU antitrust complaint over allegations of price-fixing for undersea and underground high-voltage power cables.

The cases are: T-112/07, Hitachi and Others v. European Commission; T-113/07, Toshiba v. European Commission; T-132/07, Fuji Electric v. European Commission; T-133/07, Mitsubishi Electric v. European Commission.

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