NEC Owes $6M for Fixing Optical-Disk Drive Prices

     (CN) - Accused of conspiring to fix the prices of optical-disc drives, NEC Corp. can pay $6 million to settle a class action by Acer and other computer makers, a federal judge ruled.
     The multidistrict litigation in San Francisco arose in part from a 2010 class action filed by Acer Inc. and Gateway Inc. They alleged that an extensive group of companies had conspired to "fix, raise, stabilize and maintain prices" for the multibillion-dollar optical-disc drive, or ODD, industry.
     "Defendants and their co-conspirators participated in a price-fixing conspiracy from as early as Jan. 1, 2004 through, around, Jan. 1, 2010," an amended complaint filed in 2014 states. "These anticompetitive acts included rigging bids for ODDs in procurement events conducted by Original Equipment Manufacturers, sharing confidential information including pricing, sales, production, bidding strategies and rankings, pull rates and Total Available Market in order to facilitate price coordination, entering agreements to set prices for ODDs sold in the U.S. to OEMs including Acer, and allocating customers and markets."
     Acer and Gateway claimed that the noncompetitive market forced direct purchasers like them to pay more for products.
     NEC was named as a defendant alongside Philips & Lite-On Digital Solutions Corp., Samsung Electronics Company Ltd., Pioneer Electronics, Toshiba Corp., and several subsidiaries and affiliates. The direct purchasers alleged violations of California's Cartwright Act and unfair competition law, as well as the Sherman Antitrust Act.
     U.S. District Judge Richard Seeborg granted preliminary approval Friday of a settlement that requires NEC to pay the direct-purchaser class $6 million. Final approval of the settlement will prevent all class members from filing any antitrust claims against the company.
     "The court finds that the settlement falls within the range of possible final approval and that there is a sufficient basis for notifying the settlement class and for setting a fairness hearing," Seeborg wrote.
     Saveri & Saveri can serve as class counsel, and Acer and Gateway as class representatives, according to the 16-page ruling.
     In their motion to have the deal approved last month, the plaintiffs told the court that "the settlement was achieved after extensive arms-length negotiations and represents an outstanding recovery for the class."
     Seeborg set the fairness hearing for Aug. 14.
     Last year, the court let Panasonic join a $26 million settlement with Hitachi-LG Data Storage in the same case.