Panasonic, Whirlpool fined for fixing price on refrigerant compressors

Applance makers, Japan's Panasonic and US-based Whirlpool, were yesterday fined a combined $140.9 million by the US Justice Department (DoJ) for conspiring to fix prices on refrigerant compressors.

Georgia-based Embraco North America Inc, a subsidiary of Whirlpool will pay $91.8 million, while Osaka-based Panasonic will pay $49.1 million in criminal fines for fixing prices of refrigerator compressors from October 2004 to December 2007 in the US and elsewhere.

Both companies have agreed to plead guilty in a federal court in Detroit to charges bought by the DoJ, which conducted an investigation on anti-trust violations with the help of international regulators.

"These are the first charges as a result of the antitrust division's ongoing investigation into the worldwide refrigerant compressors market," said Christine Varney, assistant attorney general at the DoJ's antitrust division.

The DoJ alleged that both companies had held meetings with other unnamed corporations and individuals to coordinate and set prices on refrigerator compressor prices.

The two companies also exchanged information to monitor prices and enforce the agreed-upon prices in order to artificially control the multibillion-dollar refrigeration compressor market.