SEOUL, Oct 30 (Reuters) - South Korea’s antitrust regulator said on Sunday it had fined 10 Korean and Taiwanese thin-film transistor (TFT)-liquid crystal display (LCD) makers, including Samsung Electronics Co Ltd of South Korea and AU Optronics Corp of Taiwan, a total of 194 billion won ($176 million) for fixing product prices.
The Fair Trade Commission (FTC) said other major LCD makers involved in its ruling were South Korea’s LG Display Co and Taiwan’s Chimei Innolux Corp. The total fines, it said, were the largest sum ever imposed in an international cartel allegation case in South Korea.
“The makers, which command a combined share of more than 80 percent of the global LCD market..., harmed domestic consumers’ interests by taking part in the price-fixing plot and raising LCD panel prices,” the FTC said in a statement.
The commission said it had investigated the matter for five years to arrive at its ruling, which followed decisions in the United States and European Union, a reference to previous rulings against South Korean flat panel makers.
The FTC accused the companies of holding regular meetings in Taiwan between September 2001 and December 2006 in order to collude not only in adjusting production volume and supply, but also in fixing prices of the flat panel products used mainly in desktop and notebook computers and televisions.
Samsung Electronics, along with its Taiwanese and Japanese subsidiaries, were fined the largest sum of 97.29 billion won, while its home rival LG Display and its subsidiaries also in Taiwan and Japan followed with 65.52 billion won.
The FTC fined AU Optronics and Chimei Innolux 28.53 billion won and 1.55 billion won, respectively, while HannStar Display was fined 870 million won and Chunghwa Picture Tubes 290 million won.
A spokesman for Samsung, the world’s largest TFT-LCD maker, told Reuters that his company “respected and fully accepted” the verdict.
But media reported that LG Display, the No. 2 LCD maker, said it was preparing to take the case to the Seoul High Court. It branded the FTC ruling “unfair” as the five-year deadline for the regulator to fine the company expired in July. ($=1,104 Korean won)
Reporting by Sung-won Shim; Editing by Ron Popeski