The European Union sent an antitrust complaint to 10 Asian companies that make power-storage components used in products from smartphones to refrigerators, over concerns they participated in an illegal price-rigging cartel.
Regulators said the unidentified firms plotted in “multilateral meetings in Japan” from at least 1997 to 2014 to share data and discuss prices. Further discussions “appear to have taken place in Europe with the European subsidiary of a Japanese company,” the EU said in a statement on Wednesday.
EU Competition Commissioner Margrethe Vestager has taken on some of the world’s biggest companies -- such as Alphabet Inc.’s Google -- after inheriting numerous unfinished cases when she took over the role a year ago.
The European Commission is one of several authorities around the world investigating capacitor makers. NEC Tokin Corp. and some subsidiaries were quizzed last year by the commission and others, according to Kemet Corp. NEC Tokin was also searched last year by the Japanese Fair Trade Commission in a similar probe. The Japanese regulator visited Panasonic Corp.’s Sanyo Electric Co. and Hitachi Chemical Co. Ltd. offices, among others, including Nippon Chemi-Con Corp.
While getting an EU antitrust complaint is usually a precursor for fines, companies that reveal the existence of cartels can escape penalties. Recipients also have the right to challenge the regulator’s findings, including at an oral hearing.