The European Commission has issued a £221 million fine to a wide range of capacitor manufacturers for participation in a pricing cartel that saw the cost of consumer electronics hiked between 1998 and 2012.
Following an investigation triggered by Sanyo Electric Company tattling on its competitors and fellow cartel members, which reduced its share of the fine from nearly £28 million to zero, the European Commission concluded that nine Japanese capacitor manufacturers participated in multilateral meetings and exchanged commercially sensitive information in bi- or trilateral contracts with a view to avoid competing on price - creating a price-fixing cartel illegal under EU law and, in turn, driving up the price of the capacitors themselves and the devices which rely on them to operate.
'Capacitors are an essential part of almost all electronic products, ranging from smart phones to appliances in our homes, electronic systems in our cars and wind turbines producing electricity,' explains Commissioner Margrethe Vestager of the ruling. 'The nine companies fined today colluded to maximise their profits. This may have happened not only at the expense of manufacturers but also of consumers. Our decision again makes clear that we will not tolerate anti-competitive conduct that may affect European consumers, even if anticompetitive contacts take place outside Europe.'
The companies named in the investigation - Sanyo, Hitachi, Rubycon, ELNA, Tokin, NEC, Matsuo, Nichicon, Nippon Chemi-Con, Vishay Polytech, Holy Stone Holdings, and Holy Stone Enterprises - represent nine of the largest suppliers of aluminium and tantalum capacitors in the world. The largest single fine, totalling €97,921,000, was given to Nippon Chemi-Con; Tokin, Elna, Rubycon, and Hitachi each received reductions in their respective fines for their cooperation in the investigation, while Sanyo dodged the fine altogether for bringing the matter to the attention of the Commission in the first place.
The companies involved were found to have been colluding on pricing between 1998 and 2012, though no evidence was found to suggest the price fixing continues to this day.