(CN) – The European Commission on Wednesday slapped eight producers of electrolytic capacitors with a combined $311 million fine for their roles in a 14-year cartel.
Capacitors store energy electrostatically within an electric field and are essential components of electronic products.
During an investigation spurred by a tip from cartel participant Sanyo and its parent company Panasonic, the commission found that between 1998 and 2012 nine electronics firms conspired to manipulate the capacitor market. Specifically, the commission said the companies exchanged commercially sensitive information on future prices and pricing intentions and on supply-and-demand information.
The companies also made secret pricing agreements amongst themselves, the commission said.
For the tip-off, Sanyo and Panasonic have been given full immunity. The remaining eight companies owe $311 million, with their share determined by annual revenue and how much each cooperated during the investigation.
The companies include Hitachi, Rubycon, ELNA, Tokin and NEC, Matsuo, Nichicon, Nippon Chemi-Con and Vishay Polytech.
In a statement, competition commissioner Margrethe Vestager said, “Capacitors are an essential part of almost all electronic products, ranging from smartphones to appliances in our homes, electronic systems in our cars and wind turbines producing electricity. The companies fined today colluded to maximize their profits. This may have happened not only at the expense of manufacturers but also of consumers. Our decision again makes clear that we will not tolerate anti-competitive conduct that may affect European consumers, even if anticompetitive contacts take place outside Europe."