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Competition

EU slaps biggest-ever fine on screen producers

EU anti-trust regulators have fined six major electronics firms a record total penalty of 1.4 billion euros ($1.9 billion). The companies were deemed to have fixed prices for TV and monitor tubes for nearly a decade.

The largest fine, totaling 313 million euros ($409 million), was slapped on Dutch electronics firm Philips, the European Union's executive Commission said Wednesday, ahead of a 295-million-euro penalty imposed on LG Electronics, and 157 million for Panasonic.

The other electronics giants involved in the international price fixing were Samsung, Toshiba and Technicolor.

According to EU Competition Commissioner Joaquin Almunia, the firms fixed global prices for so-called cathode ray tubes. These tubes used to be key components of television screens and computer monitors until flatscreens have started to replace them in recent years.

The six companies formed altogether two cartels, one involving TV sets and the other computer monitors, and had been operating on a global scale between 1996 and 2006.

"These cartels feature all the worst kinds of anti-competitive behavior that are strictly forbidden to companies doing business in Europe," Almunia said in a statement, adding that the violations were especially harmful to consumers as the tubes accounted for up to 70 percent of screen prices.

Taiwanese firm Chunghwa Picture Tubes finally blew the whistle on the cartels and escaped being punished, the EU Commission said.

Before Wednesday's ruling, the biggest fine imposed for anti-trust violations by the EU amounted to 1.38 billion euros slapped on a car glass cartel in 2008.

uhe/msh (Reuters, AP, dpa)