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Japan Probes LCD Makers On Antitrust Issues

Japan’s Fair Trade Commission is investigating “several” LCD manufacturers on allegations the companies agreed to limit production of LCD flat-panel displays in order to offset a drop in prices. Although the commission has not named the companies it is investigating, manufacturers Sharp, NEC, and L.G. Philips LCD have been sent letters by the Fair Trade Commission, while Matsushita says it has not been contacted. Manufacturing giant Samsung—the leading maker of LCD displays‐as not yet commented.

The actions of the Japan Fair Trade Commission mirror investigations in South Korea and the United States; on December 8, Sharp’s U.S. subsidiary was contacted by the U.S. Justice Department in regard to a possible investigation; L.G. Philips LCD also acknowledged it has been contacted by antitrust authorities in the U.S. and South Korea. NEC acknowledged its LCD operations face scrutiny by Japanese authorities, but did not name any other agencies looking at the company.

If the investigations bear fruit, it would not be the first time tech companies have quietly agreed to limit production in order to keep prices for commodity items artificially inflated. In October 2005, Samsung agreed to pay $300 million for its role in a price-fixing scheme which kept prices for DRAM artificially inflated; employees of memory makers Infineon, Micron, and Hynix plead guilty to charges in the price-fixing scheme.

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