Panasonic, Toshiba Win Cuts to EU Fines in TV Tubes Cartel

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Panasonic Corp. and Toshiba Corp. won multimillion-euro reductions in their European Union antitrust fines for fixing prices of cathode-ray tubes once used in televisions and computer monitors.

Panasonic’s penalty was cut to 128.9 million euros ($143.8 million) from 157.5 million euros and Toshiba’s 28 million-euro levy was wiped out after judges at the EU’s General Court found flaws in parts of the EU investigation that led to record antitrust fines against some of the world’s biggest electronics firms.

The European Commission failed to meet the “requisite legal standard” for proving that Toshiba “was aware or had actually been kept informed of the existence” of a cartel for color picture tubes, the Luxembourg-based court said. Regulators also wrongly calculated Panasonic’s liability, the court said.

The European Commission accused the companies in 2012 of colluding as customers switched to slimmer liquid-crystal and plasma display sets. It ordered companies including Royal Philips NV and LG Electronics Inc. to pay fines totaling 1.47 billion euros.

Panasonic and Toshiba clinched additional reductions for collective fines for ventures levied in the same EU ruling from 2012. A joint fine levied on Panasonic, its unit MTPD and Toshiba was cut to 82.8 million euros from 86.7 million euros, and a joint fine for Panasonic and MTPD was reduced to 7.5 million euros from 7.9 million euros.

Philips, LG and Samsung SDI Co. lost their appeals in the case.

Escaped Fine

Philips said it disagrees with Wednesday’s decision and will continue to appeal its fines. Chunghwa Picture Tubes Ltd. escaped a fine because it was the first to inform regulators of the cartel.

The commission said the rulings confirmed the right of the EU’s antitrust authority “to sanction cartels that concern products made from components of foreign origin and that are not themselves sold within the European Economic Area.”

The rulings also confirmed “that parent companies were liable for the illegal anticompetitive behavior of joint ventures irrespective of the ownership shares,” the Brussels-based commission said in an e-mailed statement.

The cases are: T-82/13 Panasonic and MT Picture Display v. Commission; T-84/13 Samsung SDI and Others v. Commission; T-91/13 LG Electronics v. Commission; T-92/13 Philips v. Commission; T-104/13 Toshiba v. Commission.

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