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back to article This just in: Brussels shatters CRT cartel

The European Union has squeezed a settlement out of CRT glass manufacturers it accused of operating a cartel back in the days when people used glass screens. Three vendors will cough up a total of €128m (£111m) to settle the investigation. Nippon Electric will pay €43.2m, Schott AG will pay €40.1m and Asahi Glass will pay €45.1m …

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FAIL

So where do I apply for my refund?

Ha! Thought not.

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NOw

Does anyone thing that the same companies have wised up and are playing fair with LCD pricing?

...I thought not.

//mine's the one with the pricing agreement in the pocket

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The LCD cartel

Don't you worry about that. The EU is expecting to Fast Track the investigation into alleged LCD cartel activity in 2024. As soon as the laserdisk investigation is finished.

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Anonymous Coward

History repeats itself.

http://www.reghardware.com/2010/12/08/flatscreen_cartel_fines/

Samsung got full immunity in that by grassing up everyone else too.

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Better than not

I would rather they fine the people for price fixing than say "well, it's too late now, sod it". Do we do the same thing for murderers who committed their acts a decade ago? The idea is you punish so they think twice about doing it again. But for that to happen, €100m isn't going to be enough...

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Anonymous Coward

Optional

Precisely. Letting them walk (so to speak) would send the message that it's open seasonon price fixing as long as the tech is on its way out (when he new tech is most expensive, naturally).

My guess is that you wouldn't be pleased if a robber, after stealing your Core2Quad desktop and collection of vinyl, was released because the technology was old, so why bother...

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Mushroom

"Price fixing" = "Murder"?

Can it get more retarded? Nobody forces you to buy so what are you lousy lot complaining about?

"The cartel was operated on the basis of bilateral or trilateral meetings, organised at the request of the members. The cartel members supplemented their price coordination activities with the exchange, on an ad hoc basis, of confidential and sensitive market information."

OH NOES THEY ARE MEETING! CRIMINAL! I HAVE BEEN ROBBED!

Seriously, these guys just decided to get together and keep the price up, which is what happens everyday everywhere in all kinds of markets. Like, labor unions? Or maybe check the market price in the ads and adjust accordingly? This opens up the marketplace for competition that decides to actually compete on price. (Except if isn't forbidden by law.) It's that simple.

People who complain about this would probably have complained about "a race to the bottom" or "unfair competition" or "manipulation of the <currency>" if there had been actual price competition going on. Then they would have gone and bought the overpriced stuff anyway because they are haughty snobs and don't "buy cheap".

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@Destroy All Monsters

Do you enjoy paying over the odds and giving companies unreasonably large profit margins?

'Normal' pricing means that prices tend to fall in 'real terms', with margins staying roughly the same - each manufacturer will drop their prices when they can, to undercut the competition in their market and capture more customers.

Cartels allow prices to rise while margins greatly increase - it allows the suppliers to increase their prices without the risk of losing significant numbers of customers.

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@DAM

"Price fixing" = "Murder"

When did I say that? I said that, like murder, there is no statute of limitations on when criminals can be caught.

"Can it get more retarded? Nobody forces you to buy so what are you lousy lot complaining about?"

Yes, it can get more retarded, as you have demonstrated. The statement that nobody forces you to buy is moronic, because you needed a CRT at the time to use a computer, and saying "well, don't use a computer" is bullshit. Would you say the same thing if the cartel was artificially raising the price of food?

"Seriously, these guys just decided to get together and keep the price up, which is what happens everyday everywhere in all kinds of markets. Like, labor unions? Or maybe check the market price in the ads and adjust accordingly? This opens up the marketplace for competition that decides to actually compete on price. (Except if isn't forbidden by law.) It's that simple."

Of course it isn't, don't be dense. If you are making (for example) CRTs there are maybe half a dozen major players in the world who control such a large portion of the market that they can set prices artificially high. The barriers to entry are high enough that perfect competition cannot exist, hence the need for anti-cartel legislation.

The comparisons with unions are interesting, however, and is the one point you raised in the post that isn't instantly rebutted. I don't have an answer for you as to why unions are OK but cartels are not, except that unions consist of humans and cartels consist of companies, and I think it's reasonable to have different laws for the two. We don't let companies vote in elections, for example.

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I'm not so sure...

...this is quite as bad as it sounds either. I seem to recall the major super markets in the UK being brought to heel over milk pricing. They'd been in talks because in competing with each other, one of the inevitable consequences was a squeeze on the margins of Britains' dairy farmers. The argument FOR discussing prices boiled down to the fact that if prices continued to fall, eventually all the milk would need to be imported and the British dairy farming industry would disapear.

Maybe we all have less sympathy for a worker at a foreign manufacturer than a British farmer, but it still seems to me we ought to think about the externalities associated with pricing.

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Facepalm

Go somewhere reliable and look up 'monopoly'. No, not the game.

For someone who seems to love the free market so much, you don't seem to know much about the forces that shape it; rather, you come hurtling in and go off half-cocked without a second (or possibly first) thought. It's like rushing into a bar showing a Formula One race, and yelling, "Those wings are stupid, they only slow you down because of air resistance! There's no reason to use them, morons! And I know what I'm talking about - I said 'air resistance' and that's a technical term!"

Yeesh.

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"Seriously, these guys just decided to get together and keep the price up, which is what happens everyday everywhere in all kinds of markets."

It is illegal for companies to get together and fix a price. This is true for a mass market (CRT/LCD) or for niche markets. (you bid higher than me on this one and I will do the same for you later...)

"Or maybe check the market price in the ads and adjust accordingly"

No problem with that, the companies pitch their wares according to the value that will be perceived, (Android phones/AMD processors)

"People who complain about this would probably have complained about "a race to the bottom" or "unfair competition" or "manipulation of the <currency>" if there had been actual price competition going on. Then they would have gone and bought the overpriced stuff anyway because they are haughty snobs and don't "buy cheap"."

Cartels fix a minimum price for their wares, they force the whole market up and gain inflated profits. They are anti-competitive in the same way as an illegal monopoly.

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Care to share your opinion with your utilities?

Would you mind if any of the following increased their prices tenfold?

... internet provider

... electricity/gas company

... every petrol station within 20 miles of you

... Cable company/Television license

... university tuition

... rent

... every grocery store near you

Nobody forces you to buy anything.

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Happy

So

If we could just get them to sort out the floppy disk cartel it would be cheap computing all round.

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Easy for you

First we have to straighten out the 8 inch cartel, then it's on to the 5.25 inch boys, and finally, we nail the 3.5 inch monopolists.

Say...has anyone looked into the suppliers of mouse balls?

//mine's the one with the strawberries in the pocket

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Boffin

Almost!

You forgot about tape reels. Everyone knows it’s not a computer without those great big tape reels spinning away.

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Yeah

Yeah, there's no way those 8" disks should have been so expensive!

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They'll be starting on floppy disks

...right after they have solved the thorny 'horseless carriage' problem.

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Immunity

So all I have to do is start a cartel, make megabuttloads of cash, and then turn in the other companies to the authorities in return for immunity (thus guaranteeing that I not only get megarich, but also end up being the market leader).

Awesome.

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Trollface

Yes, that's true, but the longer you stay in the cartel, the more money you make out of it, so you don't want to get out too early. But then you have to watch out for others in the cartel being as slimy as you... It sounds like a fun gambling game, ideal for wannabe CEOs

Oh you also have to watch out that there aren't any Italian families in the cartel, because they might not like your doube dealings, and you might end up megadead :)

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Assuming of course...

...that none of your pals in the cartel get any funny ideas about dobbing you in for immunity first; how far will everyone push their greed?

I think it's a good idea for the investigators to dish out 'bonuses', in the form of immunity as well as reduced fines. It's practical to admit that this sort of collusion only occurs because the financial rewards outweigh the risks in the eyes of the cartels. Throwing immunity incentives out there knackers the comfy high reward / low risk scenario where all the cartel members can trust each other. It works in the other direction too - companies with a history of collusion get hit with massive increases in penalties, taking them to the point where they simply cannot afford the potential cost of doing it again.

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Yag

It's one of the consequence of the game theory.

According to some economists, such collusion should be impossible because there is an incentive to break it before the other members.

I guess they are probably wrong once again :)

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But, since they are a cartel

As soon as they get wind of an investigation, they select one member to "fess up" and get their shared fines cut but a 1/4.

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I've got it!

Start a cartel, then at a pre-agreed time everybody rats the others out (to a different officer while arranging immunity) at exactly the same time. Job done.

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Mines the £20 21" IIYama Now

Can I get a cheaper CRT monitor now then, will they reduce the amount of money taken from my salary to pay for the buggers in europe.

If the answer to these question is no I vote, we shouldn't enter into the Common Market.

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Happy

Actually yes

Eventually the money gained from fines will lead to lower funding requirements for the EU, which will mean lower taxes - that's just maths. You'll never see the difference spelt out, of course.

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Stop

actually no

> lower funding requirements for the EU, which will mean lower taxes -

No, it will mean even more EU bureaucrats, to soak up the extra cash. Lowering taxes would send entirely the wrong idea.

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Anonymous Coward

re: lower taxes

HAAHAHAAHAAHAAAAAHAAAHAAAA

Of course, in an ideal world you would be correct. In reality, i doubt it will even amount to taxes not being as raised... or even raised less high (if that makes sense :s)

add up the costs of the investigation including legal fees on the EU side, i mean how long did this investigation last?

how much does that leave per citizen?

Seems more like a cost recovery exercise.

It occurs to me that the EU (as an extra-national entity/bureaucracy) could probably fund itself by fining all the companies that are screwing us over...

see also:

vodafone's tax evaison

grey imports

and most importantly, Et cetera

its no surprise that many companies refer to the UK as treasure island

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Anonymous Coward

> Eventually the money gained from fines will lead to lower funding requirements for the EU, which will mean lower taxes

Of course it will.

I mean every government department in the world looks at what budget they have left at the end of the financial year and decides to request that much less the next year. They would never even consider blowing what is left of their budget as fast as possible just so they can maintain their level of funding. It is unheard of.

Keep taking the pills, I'm sure, given time, your delusions will stop

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False Assumption

You're assuming (incorrectly) that they will not just count those fines as additional revenue to spend and maintain current tax levels.

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Anonymous Coward

Rats

With mates like Samsung who needs enemies

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WTF?

That was quick!

So, by time we're blessed with 3D holographic displays on our computers and in the lounge, the EU may be bitchslapping the "LCD display Cartel"

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Meetings

"The cartel was operated on the basis of bilateral or trilateral meetings..."

But there were four vendors -- could they not all get together for a quadrilateral meeting? Or did they think that would be too square?

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FAIL

Fail!

Commenting on the ruling, EU competition commissioner Neelie Kroes said: "This decision sends two warnings to companies engaging in cartel activities: first, the commission can prosecute cartels effectively"

That's from the 2007 videotape cartel bust

Yeah, I can see the cartels are shaking in their boots, increase the fine by a factor of 30 and they maight have an effect.

Icon says it all

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1 Cartel down (after the fact), umpteen more to go.

The UK Energy Suppliers are the current worst culprits because they supply a necessity and are pricing people out of the "market".

The Governments solution is to mail people and advise them to "look for better deals" each year instead of blindly sticking to their current suppliers.

Can we have energy nationalised again please? Or at the very least run not-for-obscene-profits.

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You forgot that other epic suggestion from both the Government and the energy company spokesperson:

"Put on a jumper."

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Holmes

It's called "Home Insulation"

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Anonymous Coward

It isn't just the energy suppliers fault. Your bills are 14% higher today because of the subsidies the energy companies have to give to renewables such as wind and solar.

Every windmill you see is adding to the cost of your electricity bill.

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AC @ 21:30 GMT

Yep, because wind and solar are clearly the only electricity industries that get subsidised by the government.

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FAIL

True, hydro and "Clean Coal" are subsidised as well.

Old nuke was subsidised by the MoD (hence Government) because they wanted the interesting things particular types of nuke create.

However, nothing goes as far as the insanely high prices forced upon the energy companies by legislation* for Solar and Wind - 30-45p/kWh is nuts. That price would put most of the country into fuel poverty and make electric and plug-in hybrid vehicles permanently unaffordable.

Oddly, new nuke and gas are the only ones that aren't obviously being subsidised at the moment.

*cos it's not taxation or subsidy if the Govenment don't do it directly. Or so they seem to think.

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Coat

CRTs now free

you cant give em away these days!

over privedged noobs!

spoilt they are!

I've got 500 CRTs right here if anyone wants one - it'll save disposal costs.

Don't tell the Cartel tho - they might come round and smash my kneecaps!

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Flame

The OPEC in the room

Perhaps the European Union should look into

1. something important

2. something not beyond living memory

The Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries for example. Won't happen of course - but the fine could bail out the PIGS twenty times over.

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Can I add the ongoing investigation into the music and film cartels to the list. Seeing as they were guilty in the U.S. and the only reason to delay the trial is if you're going to be found guilty.

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Devil

OPEC

As OPEC members are sovereign governments how are the pen pushers in Brussels going to

prosecute them?

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But OPEC are open about the fact that the organisation exists to protect the interests of its members; which is to make the best return on the natural resources geography left them with.

This cartel operated in a hidden way which was deceiving the customer.

The EU had jurisdiction and succesfully brought a prosecution. How can this not be a good thing?

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Anonymous Coward

OPEC

Nation states are immune from criminal proceedings.

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Anonymous Coward

"Eventually the money gained from fines will lead to lower funding requirements for the EU, which will mean lower taxes - that's just maths. You'll never see the difference spelt out, of course."

-- I'll have whatever that person's smoking please :)

How many billions to bail out funds?

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What happened to all those twunts who did the price fixing?

They should be sent down for a few years at least.

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Holmes

Price Fixing = Murder

Just like downloading is stealing.

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JDX
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@Destroy All Monsters

Are you drunk or just brain-dead?

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