A Dell laptop with an optical disc drive. (Photo/Lyu Jia-cing)
Taiwan's Fair Trade Commission has given fines totaling NT$54 million (US$1.8 million) to electronics makers Toshiba-Samsung Storage Technology, Hitachi-LG Data Storage, Sony Optiarc and Philips & Lite-On Digital Solution for fixing prices of optical disc drives. This is the first penalty the commission has given to foreign companies after introducing a forgiveness article that grants informer immunity and exemption from fines.
All of the four electronic makers received penalties but the whistleblower, which was one of the four electronics manufacturers, was exempt from the fine and its identity has been also kept confidential in accordance with the law, according to Sun Lih-chyun, spokesperson for the commission, reports our sister newspaper Commercial Times.
The four companies were found exchanging information through email, telephone and meetings regarding quotations and information they provided during open-bid competition for optical disc drives held by computer makers Dell and Hewlett-Packard, according to Taiwanese media reports.
The price-fixing began as early as 2004 and may have continued until September 2009, according to the information provided by the informant and the papers of a US court, said Sun. The four companies reached a deal with the US Department of Justice in November 2011 and the Taiwanese commission began its investigation thereafter. The informant agreed to cooperate with the commission after the forgiveness article was enacted in November last year.
The commission's investigation confirmed that the price-fixing has affected optical disc drive demand in Taiwan since the four companies had a combined market share of 75% in the global optical disc drive market. Dell and HP had 30% market share around the world and 10% in Taiwan, according to Commercial Times.
Based on the revenue of the four companies, the commission fined Toshiba-Samsung Storage Technology NT$25 million (US$852,000), Hitachi-LG Data Storage NT$16 million (US$545,000), Sony Optiarc NT$5 million (US$170,000) and Philips & Lite-On Digital Solution NT$8 million (US$272,000). Their fines were based on an older version of the laws so that the highest penalty was NT$25 million, according to DigiTimes, a Taiwan-based newspaper reporting on the IT industry. The fines would otherwise have been much higher.
Fair Trade Commission 公平會
Sun Lih-chyun 孫立群