Toshiba, LG, AU Optronics To Settle LCD Price-Fixing Case


Toshiba, AU Optronics and LG have agreed to pay $571 million to settle a class-action suit filed against them for fixing the prices of LCD panels in the U.S. market.

Seven other defendants involved in the case, Samsung, Sharp, Hitachi Displays, Chimei Innolux, Epson Imaging Devices, HannStart Display and Chunghwa Picture Tubes, had already agreed to settle in December for $553 million, making the combined settlement for the case $1.1 billion.

According to a statement issued Thursday from Attorney General Eric Schneiderman in New York, at least $692 million of the settlement, once approved by the court, will be available for partial refunds to any consumers residing in New York and 23 other States who purchased products containing LCD panels during January 1, 1999, through December 31, 2006. LCD panels are commonly used in desktop and notebook monitors, along with TVs.

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A class-action suit was filed against the 10 manufacturers in 2007, both by direct consumers of products containing LCD panels as well as manufacturers who purchased the panels to use in their own products. The defendants were accused of conspiring to artificially inflate the prices of LCD panels sold in the U.S., a scandal that, according to Schneiderman, created an unfair market for other LCD manufacturers and an unfair price for consumers.

"This price-fixing scheme created an unlevel playing field for businesses that abide by the rules, and left consumers paying artificially higher costs for televisions, computers and other electronics," Schneiderman said in a statement. "Protecting the integrity of the marketplace is the only way to ensure the best outcome for New York’s consumers. That is why my office will aggressively police anti-competitive practices and hold accountable corporations that violate the law."

Toshiba was formally found guilty of participating in the conspiracy last week but said in a statement that it did not anticipate having to pay a fine in light of the settlement already offered by its co-defendants in December.

"Given credits for settlements by other defendants, Toshiba expects that it will not have to pay any damages as a result of this verdict, even after trebling under U.S. antitrust laws," Toshiba said in the statement.

Toshiba originally faced up to an $87 million fine, which could have ultimately tripled given the antitrust nature of the case, before it offered the $571 million joint settlement with AU Optronics and LG Thursday. Schneiderman’s statement did not break down how much each of the three companies will pay as part of the settlement.

PUBLISHED JULY 12, 2012