EU Fines Nine Memory Makers Over Price Fixing

The European Union has issued fines against nine memory manufacturers—including Samsung, the world’s largest—for conspiring to fix prices in the DRAM market. All cole, the fines add up to €331 million (about $410 million USD), with €145.73 million of that fine landing squarely on Samsung. However, memory maker MIcron is getting off scott free…because it’s the company that blue the whistle on the price fixing in the first place.

Other companies fined in the ruling are Hynix, Infineon, NEC, Hitachi, Mitsubishi, Toshiba, Elpida, and Nanya. Germany’s Infineon—the only company involved that’s actually an EU business—received the second-largest fine, some €57 million. However, all companies saw their fines reduced by 10 percent for cooperating with the investigation.

According to the allegations, between 1998 and 2002 the companies conspired to share secret product, trade, and pricing information between then, explicitly for the purpose of setting prices for DRAM chips that, in turn, were sold to computer manufacturers for use in PCs and servers. The investigation goes all the way back to 2002 when Micron first raised an alarm about the cartel. Although this particular case has dragged on for years, the EU Competition Commission expects that the companies’ cooperation means that future cases will be concluded more efficiently.

“By acknowledging their participation in a cartel the companies have allowed the Commission to bring this long-running investigation to a close and to free up resources to investigate other suspected cartels,” said EU Competition Commissioner Joaquín Almunia, in a statement. “As the procedure is applied to new cases it is expected to speed up investigations significantly.”

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