LCD makers agree to pay $538.6 million to settle price fixing claims

Samsung Electronics, Sharp Corp, Epson, Hitachi and three makers of liquid crystal display panels used in computers and televisions agreed to pay $538.6 million to settle antitrust claims bought on by indirect buyers and eight states of the US.

The companies, that also include Chimei Innolux Corp, Chunghwa Picture Tubes and HannStar Display Corp, allegedly fixed prices of thin-film liquid crystal display panels from 1999 to 2006, which drove up prices of televisions, desk top monitors and laptop screens.

Other companies that were also part of the price fixing but did not agree to the settlement are LG, Toshiba and AU Optronics. The suit against them will go to trial in November next year.

Earlier this month, these companies agreed to pay $388 million in the same consolidated case to direct buyers.

Under the settlement arrived in the case bought on by indirect buyers, about $501 million will be given as partial refunds to consumers and about $37 million to compensate governments and other public entities for damages.

The complaint alleged that the defendants organised the conspiracy at the highest levels of their organisations in various secret meetings and telephone conversations. A number of the defendants and their employees have pleaded guilty to federal charges.

Samsung will pay $240 million, the highest in the settlement $240 million and Sharp, the second-biggest, $115.5 million, while the remaining will be paid by the other five.

''Price-fixing is detrimental to Florida's consumers, governmental agencies, and the economy,'' stated Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi. ''I am pleased that we will be able to return funds to those who were harmed by this illegal and deceptive behaviour.''