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CJEU upholds €1.47bn fines over cathode tube cartels

The European Court of Justice (CJEU) has upheld fines imposed on Philips and LG Electronics for participation in a cathode ray tube (CRT) cartel.22 Sep 2017

The CJEU upheld fines of €313.356 million imposed on Philips and €295.597 million LG Electronics, and a fine of €391.940 million imposed jointly and severally on those companies by the EU General Court in 2015.

The General Court had upheld some fines imposed by the European Commission in 2012 against companies involved in fixing of prices of "essential components" in the production of colour TVs and computer monitors.

The Commission had imposed the fines totalling more than €1.47 billion on Philips, LG Electronics, Samsung SDI, Panasonic, Toshiba, MT Picture Display (MTPD), Technicolor and Chunghwa after it said they had operated in at least one of two global cartels where prices for CRTs were fixed.

The General Court reduced the level of fines that Panasonic and Toshiba must pay as a result of their involvement in the cartel activity after the companies appealed against the Commission's decision, but dismissed similar appeals from LG Electronics, Philips and Samsung SDI. LG Electronics and Philips brought an appeal against the judgment to the CJEU.

In their appeal, the two companies argued that the Commission should have sent a copy of the statement of objections to the LPD group, their common subsidiary.

The CJEU said that the Commission chose to pursue solely LGE and Philips, the parent companies of the LPD group, and not the group itself, and conclude that if the Commission had no intention of establishing that an infringement was committed by a company, the rights of defence did not require a statement of objections to be sent to that company.

The CJEU also supported the Commission's method of calculating the fines based on the LPD group’s direct European Economic Area (EEA) sales through transformed sales.

Participants in a cartel should not be able to reduce the value of sales of goods from the calculation of a fine solely because those goods are incorporated into products finished outside the EEA, the CJEU said.

The Court also dismissed LGE’s and Philip’s argument that the General Court erred in law and infringed the principle of equal treatment by not reducing their fines to compensate for favourable treatment allegedly received by Samsung.