Nokia sues Samsung, Sharp & others over LCD price fixing

Nokia has accused several of the largest LCD manufacturers in the world of price fixing, setting its sights on six different companies it hopes to receive monetary compensation from.

Specifically, Samsung, LG, Sharp, Toshiba, Hitachi and AU Optronics are named in the lawsuit, though Nokia hasn’t revealed any more specifics to the case.

The lawsuit, which was filed on Nov. 25 in San Francisco at the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California, accuses the LCD manufacturers of price fixing from Jan. 1, 2006 to Dec. 11, 2006, when the company said it was mysteriously overcharged for LCD screens.

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“Nokia has filed suits to recover overcharges it paid as a result of cartel activities which are currently under government investigation,” Nokia said when announcing the lawsuits. “When certain companies and management employees have already admitted participating in, or are indicted for, global price-fixing cartels involving components Nokia has purchased, it is reasonable for Nokia to seek redress.”

U.S. antitrust investigators have shown a new interest on stifling price fixing, especially in the tech sector. Last November, the U.S. Department of Justice slapped a $585 million fine on Sharp, LG and Chunghwa Picture Tubes as they reportedly engaged in price fixing to increase the cost of LCDs for more than five years.

Although the government is interested in cracking down on price fixing, some tech analysts indicate it will continue to happen again numerous times in the future – the amount made from charging both consumers and other companies more is worth the cost of paying millions in fines to the government.

It’s possible companies that are repeatedly caught – i.e. Sharp and LG – may face increased fines if caught again so quickly.  I believe this is just the first wave in attacks against companies caught engaging in price fixing, and the punishment if found guilty will increase.