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EU slaps EUR 254m fines on Japanese capacitor makers

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EU slaps EUR 254m fines on Japanese capacitor makers

Margrethe Vestager - Photo © European Union 2018

(BRUSSELS) - The Commission fined eight Japanese producers of capacitors a total of EUR254 million Wednesday for participating in a cartel for the supply of aluminium and tantalum electrolytic capacitors.

Producers Elna, Hitachi Chemical, Holy Stone, Matsuo, NEC Tokin, Nichicon, Nippon Chemi-Con, Rubycon were hit with fines of EUR 253,935,000. Together with the immunity applicant, Sanyo, they operated a cartel for the supply of aluminium and tantalum electrolytic capacitors between 1998 and 2012.

Capacitors are electrical components that store energy electrostatically in an electric field, and are used in a wide variety of electric and electronic products. They are an essential part of almost all electronic products, ranging from smart phones to home appliances, electronic systems in cars and wind turbines producing electricity.

"The nine companies fined today colluded to maximise their profits," said EU Commissioner Margrethe Vestager, in charge of competition policy: "This may have happened not only at the expense of manufacturers but also of consumers. Our decision again makes clear that we will not tolerate anti-competitive conduct that may affect European consumers, even if anticompetitive contacts take place outside Europe."

The Commission says its investigation found that from 1998 to 2012, nine Japanese companies participated in multilateral meetings and engaged in bilateral or trilateral contacts to exchange commercially sensitive information.

The objective was to coordinate future behaviour and avoid price competition. In particular, the companies exchanged information on future prices and pricing intentions, and on future supply and demand information. In some instances, the participants also concluded price agreements and monitored their implementation.

The investigation found that the cartel participants were aware of the anti-competitive nature of their behaviour, as evidenced by their intention to conceal it.

For example, messages exchanged between the companies or internal emails containing reports of the meetings included mentions such as "Discard after reading", "After reading this email, please destroy it without stowing it away", "Since the gathering should not be disclosed to the public, please be careful when handling the contents of the present report." The meetings involved discussions between senior managers and occasionally even presidents.

The meetings and contacts took place mainly in Japan, but the cartel conduct was implemented on a global scale, including in the European Economic Area (EEA).

More information on this case will be available under the case number AT.40136 in the public case register on the Commission's competition website, once confidentiality issues have been dealt with. For more information on the Commission's action against cartels, see its cartels website.

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