GE Sues Whirlpool Over Claims It Fixed Compressor Prices

General Electric Co. sued Whirlpool Corp. accusing the company of conspiring to fix prices for refrigerant compressors sold in the U.S. and elsewhere.

GE, in a complaint filed Feb. 15 in federal court in Louisville, Kentucky, claims that as early as January 1996 Whirlpool and other defendants including Household Compressors Holding SpA of Italy restrained competition in the manufacturing and sale of the compressors, which in turn raised prices for consumers.

Fairfield, Connecticut-based GE “has been a target and a victim of the conspirators’ cartel,” according to the complaint. GE seeks unspecified damages, as well as a court order barring violations of antitrust law.

GE has paid “supra-competitive prices for compressors and has been deprived of innovation that would have resulted in increased efficiency, as well as increased sales and profits, in its sales of refrigerators and other refrigeration equipment,” according to the complaint.

The devices at issue regulate the compression and expansion of refrigerant gas, transferring heat and producing a cooling effect in refrigeration products including household refrigerators, according to the complaint.

Whirlpool, based in Benton Harbor, Michigan, makes and markets major home appliances. Whirlpool’s compressor unit is named Embraco, according to the complaint, and GE names Embraco North America as a defendant in the case.

Rosangela Santos, an Embraco spokeswoman, said yesterday in an e-mailed statement that the company is examining the lawsuit and “does not believe that it has caused any harm to GE.”

The case is General Electric Co. v. Whirlpool Corp., 13-cv-00213, Western District of Kentucky (Louisville).