Quite a few companies have been in the news lately for price fixing, be it for intellectual products or computer component parts. Last year a Taiwanese company was fined $500 million for a global LCD screen price-fixing conspiracy. In a similar chain of events, Apple was recently taken to trial for alleged charges of ebook price fixing.
Now Panasonic, one of the largest Japanese electronics producers, has also pleaded guilty to charges of fixing the price of laptop battery cells and automotive parts. The Japanese multinational, along with its subsidiary Sanyo, will have to pay a total of $56.5 million in criminal fines, according to the US Department of Justice (DoJ).
While the subsidiary, Sanyo, has agreed to shell out $10.7 million for the battery cells conspiracy, Panasonic will have to pay $45.8 million for its role in the automotive parts conspiracy, according to a news release which came out on Thursday.
Panasonic pleads guilty for price fixing charges (Image credit: onenewspage)
Adding to the list, LG Chem, a manufacturer of rechargeable batteries, has also agreed to conspiracy charges and will be fined $1.056 million for its role in the price fixing conspiracy involving battery cells. The conspiracy spanned more than a year, because the report indicates that Sanyo and LG Chem have been involved in fixing the price of battery cells from April 2007 to September 2008.
While talking about this issue, the report stated that, “The guilty pleas against Sanyo and LG Chem are the first in the department’s ongoing investigation into anticompetitive conduct in the cylindrical lithium-ion battery cell industry.” The conspiracy essentially revolved around fixing the prices of battery cells which are being sold worldwide for notebook computer battery packs.
The batteries in question are Lithium-ion batteries, which are rechargeable and are often grouped together to form more powerful battery packs for electronic devices. While cellphones and thin-and-light laptops mostly make use of flat or prismatic cells, the efficiency of cylindrical cells make them the ideal choice for most removable laptop battery packs.
Sanyo, LG Chem and the other companies involved in this case reportedly agreed to price the battery packs to customers at pre-determined levels and issue price quotations to customers keeping those agreements in mind, according to the charges. The agreements were reached in a series of allegedly covert meetings and conversations. The DoJ, which talking about this, said, “Sanyo, LG Chem and their co-conspirators collected and exchanged information for the purpose of monitoring and enforcing adherence to the agreed-upon prices and took steps to conceal the conspiracy. Pleading guilty and cooperating with the division’s ongoing investigations is a necessary step in changing a corporate culture that turned customers into price-fixing victims.”