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EU fines Sony, Panasonic, Samsung and Sanyo €166m in cartel settlement

Staff Writer |
The European Commission has fined Sony, Panasonic and Sanyo a total of €166 million.

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The companies and Samsung SDI coordinated prices and exchanged sensitive information on supplies of rechargeable lithium-ion batteries, used for example in laptops and mobile phones, in breach of EU antitrust rules.

Samsung SDI was not fined as it revealed the existence of the cartel to the Commission. All companies acknowledged their involvement in the cartel and agreed to settle the case.

Rechargeable lithium-ion batteries are the most common type of rechargeable batteries used in portable electronic and electrical devices. They can be divided into three types depending on their usage and demand.

Cylindrical lithium-ion batteries are for example used in larger devices such as laptops and power tools, whereas smaller devices, like smartphones and tablets, use prismatic or polymer lithium-ion batteries. All these types of battery were affected by the cartel.

The Commission's investigation found that Samsung SDI, Sony, Panasonic and Sanyo took part in bilateral, and sometimes multilateral, contacts in order to avoid aggressive competition in the market for lithium-ion batteries.

In particular, the four companies:

- agreed on temporary price increases in 2004 and 2007 triggered by a temporary increase in the price of cobalt, a raw material used in the production of lithium-ion batteries; and

- exchanged commercially sensitive information such as supply and demand forecasts, price forecasts or intentions concerning particular competitive bids organised by specific manufactures of products such as phones, laptops or power tools.

The cartel contacts took place mainly in Asia and occasionally in Europe. The cartel started in February 2004 and lasted until November 2007.

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