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European Commission fines capacitor producers €254millio

Related Lawyers: Anthony Maton, Lesley Hannah, Luke Grimes
Related Practice Areas: Competition Litigation

Today the European Commission has fined eight capacitor producers (Elna, Hitachi Chemical, Holy Stone, Matsuo, NEC Tokin, Nichicon, Nippon Chemi-Con and Rubycon) a total of €254million for participating in a cartel.  Sanyo Electric (a subsidiary of Panasonic) revealed the cartel to the European Commission, and therefore avoided a fine.

The Commission has found that the nine capacitor producers fixed prices for the supply of aluminium and tantalum electrolytic capacitors for a fourteen year period from 1998 to 2012.

Electrolytic capacitors store and regulate electrical current in a variety of electronic products, including computers, televisions, car engine and airbag systems, home appliances and office equipment.

The European Commission is not the first regulator to have made an infringement finding in respect of this cartel, it has attracted the attention of competition authorities around the world, including the Competition Commission of Singapore and the Taiwan Fair Trade Commission.

Commenting on today’s announcement partner Lesley Hannah says,

“The Commission’s finding of a cartel in the supply of aluminium and tantalum electrolytic capacitors is not unexpected following the recent infringement decisions of the Competition Commission of Singapore and the Taiwan Fair Trade Commission in relation to the same cartel. 

“What is concerning is the diversity of products potentially affected and the length of the time the cartel took place.  The cartel ran from 1998 to 2012 and affected the whole of the EEA market – a cartel of a very significant duration and wide geographic effect.  The cartel will have impacted a wide range of electronic products, including consumer products such as smart phones, games consoles and car electronic systems. 

“Due to the duration and scope of the cartel, purchasers of such products are likely to have suffered significant losses as a result of this illegal behaviour.

“We will now be exploring with companies in the technology, media, telecoms, gaming, energy and automotive sectors, whose products included capacitors whose price may have been affected by the cartel, to assess potential losses resulting from the cartel.  

“As a global cartel, it will likely require global action to recover the damage suffered.

The full press release can be read here.