(CN) – The European Commission discriminated against some Japanese members of an electronics cartel by imposing heavier fines on them compared to their European co-conspirators, the General Court of the European Union ruled.
In a series of rulings in 2007, the commission imposed a $1 billion in fines against 20 Japanese and European companies including Mitsubishi, Toshiba, Hitachi, Siemens and Areva for colluding to divide the worldwide market for gas-insulated switchgears, used to protect electric switches from heat overload.
The commission found that the Japanese companies agreed to stay out of the European market, or make artificially high bids to avoid winning contracts in the European Union, while the European companies agreed to do the same in Japan.
But the commission used different years for EU and Japanese members to determine how much the companies benefited from their collusion, the court found. “In so far as the Commission did not use the same reference year for Mitsubishi Electric and Toshiba (2001) and the European undertakings (2003), the Court finds that the Commission did not treat the Japanese producers and the European producers equally.”
Because of the calculation errors, the court annulled the full amount of the fines against Mitsubishi and Toshiba, which penalized heavier than other Japanese members of the cartel at $166.8 million and $127.9 million, respectively .
Concluding that the commission did not properly recognize the value of information provided by Fuji Electric in breaking up the cartel, the court also consolidated the fines against several Fuji subsidiaries to about $3 million.
The court did not alter the $70.9 million fine against Hitachi.