(CN) – The European Commission on Tuesday formally accused 13 companies that make CD and DVD drives of antitrust violations and operating a worldwide cartel.
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Though still not specifically identified, the commission said the co-conspirators “coordinated their behavior in bidding events organized by two major original equipment manufacturers for optical disc drives used in personal computers (desktops and notebooks) and in servers.”
“The commission takes the preliminary view that the companies concerned engaged for at least five years in bid rigging, which is one of the most serious breaches of EU antitrust rules,” it said in a statement. “This behavior, if established, may have ultimately affected customers that bought optical disk drives manufactured by the companies concerned.”
Also known as a statement of objections, the formal accusation allows the companies to examine documents in the commission’s investigation file. They can then reply in writing and request an oral hearing to present comments and objections before commission representatives.
If, after the companies present their defense and the commission concludes there is sufficient evidence of antitrust violations, the commission can impose a fine of up to 10 percent of a company’s annual worldwide net profit. Any of the companies can receive full immunity by being the first to reveal information about cartel activities, and fines can drop sharply for companies that offer “evidence of significant added value.”
The duration of cartel investigations vary with issue complexity, the number of companies involved and whether they cooperate with the investigation, the commission added.