Samsung to Philips fined $181.3 million by EU for chip cartel

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(Sept 3): Samsung Electronics Co., Royal Philips NV and Infineon Technologies AG were fined a total of 138 million euros ($181.3 million) by the European Union for fixing the price of chips used in mobile phones and bank cards.

Samsung, the world’s largest smartphone maker, will have to pay 35.1 million euros, while Philips was told to pay 20.1 million euros. Infineon received the largest penalty at 82.8 million euros.

The companies “colluded through a network of bilateral contacts in order to determine their respective responses to customers’ requests to lower prices,” the European Commission said today in an e-mailed statement today.

The fines, which follow the collapse of settlement talks with investigators, add to 1.44 billion euros of EU price-fixing penalties this year. Joaquin Almunia, the EU’s competition commissioner, had to make a decision to fine Philips by Sept. 9 to avoid the 10-year deadline on penalties for antitrust violations, a person familiar with the matter said in June.

Renesas Technology Corp. will avoid an EU punishment because it revealed the smart-card chip cartel.

The companies colluded through bilateral contacts that took place in the period between September 2003 and September 2005, the commission said. They discussed and exchanged sensitive commercial information on pricing, customers, contract negotiations, production capacity or capacity utilization and their future market conduct, the regulator said.

Philips declined to comment ahead of the decision, as did Samsung and Infineon. Representatives for Renesas didn’t immediately respond to a call and an e-mail requesting comment ahead of the decision.

Infineon and Samsung were among nine chipmakers that agreed to pay a total of 331 million euros four years ago for fixing prices for dynamic random access memory, or DRAM, chips for personal computers and servers.

Intel Corp., the world’s largest chipmaker, got the EU’s biggest-ever fine of 1.06 billion euros in 2009 for squeezing its nearest rival Advanced Micro Devices Inc. The Santa Clara, California-based company is challenging the EU decision at the EU’s top court.