Tech firms to pay $553 million in settlement over alleged LCD price fixing
Samsung, Sharp and five other LCD makers have agreed to a $553-million multi-state settlement over allegations the firms illegally conspired to inflate prices for liquid crystal displays used in televisions and computer monitors. California was one of the states included in the settlement.
Kathleen Foote, California's senior assistant attorney general, said consumers and government entities in the state would receive "a significant portion" of the settlement, with an exact percentage still to be determined.
The companies -- Chimei Innolux Corp., Chunghwa Picture Tubes Ltd., Epson Imaging Devices Corp., HannStar Display Corp., Hitachi Displays Ltd., Samsung Electronics Co. and Sharp Corp., and their U.S. affiliates -- agreed to pay more than $538 million to settle antitrust claims brought on behalf of consumers, government entities and other public entities by a group of eight attorneys general and private class-action attorneys, according to the New York attorney general's office.
Separately, five of the tech companies agreed to pay more than $14 million to settle other claims brought by the states in their law enforcement capacities. The corporations also agreed to engage in antitrust compliance programs and to cooperate with the states' ongoing prosecution of other industry participants.
According to the complaint, Japanese, Korean and Taiwanese manufacturers of thin film transistor LCD panels, together with their U.S. affiliates, engineered a conspiracy to fix prices of the panels. Tens of millions of products are estimated to have been sold at inflated prices.
Under the agreements, the companies will pay up to $37 million to compensate government and other public entities for damages resulting from the purchase of thin film transistor LCD panels. Up to $501 million will be available for partial refunds to consumers residing in 24 states and the District of Columbia who purchased products containing thin film transistor panels from Jan. 1, 1999, through Dec. 31, 2006. A notice of how to file for partial refunds will be provided to the public at a later date.
"This price-fixing scheme manipulated the playing field for businesses that abide by the rules, and left consumers to pay artificially higher costs for televisions, computers and other electronics," New York Atty. Gen. Eric T. Schneiderman said in a statement.
-- Andrea Chang
Photo: A customer shops for flat-panel televisions at a Best Buy in San Francisco. Credit: Justin Sullivan / Getty Images