AT&T has a bone to pick with several big-name LCD makers, and it will do it in court. The telco has sued a number of display manufacturers over allegedly fixing the price of more than 300 million mobile LCD screens.
Those on the receiving end of the lawsuit include Samsung, LG Display, Optronics, Sharp, and Chungwa. According to the lawsuit, the display makers "formed an international cartel illegally to restrict competition in the United States in the market for LCD panels."
AT&T called the whole situation a "conspiracy," accusing the defendants of agreeing to eliminate competition and fix LCD panel prices that they knew would be incorporated in LCD products and sold in the U.S.
This isn't the first price fixing scandal to hit the LCD industry, nor is it the first time LG, Chunghwa, and Sharp have been tied to price fixing allegations. All three agreed to plead guilty to similar charges in November 2008 and to pay $585 million in criminal fines.
Sharp, LG, and Chunghwa have each agreed to plead guilty to a price-fixing conspiracy related to LCD display panels and will pay $585 million in criminal fines, the Justice Department said. The plea agreements were filed in U.S. District Court in San Francisco, California.
"These price-fixing conspiracies affected millions of America consumers who use computers, cell phones, and numerous other household electronics every day," said Thomas Barnett, Assistant Attorney General for Antitrust at the Justice Department n Washington.
The extent of the losses as a result of the alleged price fixing conspiracy remains unknown, but Barnett said he expected to outline the damages at the time of sentencing. According to the Justice Department, LG Phillips, who plead guilty to participating a conspiracy from 2001 to 2006 to set LCD panel pricing worldwide, will be hit the hardest and ordered to pay $400 million. That ranks as the second highest criminal fine ever imposed for price fixing.
Sharp will pay $120 for its alleged role in three separate conspiracies with unnamed partners who sold price-fixed panels to Dell for monitors and laptops, Motorola for Razr phones, and Apple for use in iPods. Chunghwa will pay $65 for participating with LG and other unnamed co-conspirators.
The Justice Department warned that the investigation is ongoing, meaning more charges could be brought against individuals from each firm or from other firms.