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EU fines Sony, Fuji, Maxell for videotape price fixing

The European Commission imposed fines totaling €74.8 million on Tuesday on Japanese companies Sony, Fuji and Hitachi Maxell for fixing prices for professional videotapes sold in Europe.

„Between 1999 and 2002, Sony, Fuji and Maxell managed to raise or otherwise control prices through a series of regular meetings and other illicit contacts,” the European Union (EU)’s antitrust watchdog said in a statement. Sony’s fine was increased by 30% to €47.2 million for obstructing the commission’s investigation during on-site inspections at its premises.

Fuji’s and Maxell’s fines were reduced by 40% and 20% to €13.2 million and €14.4 million respectively because they co-operated with the investigation. The three companies were accused of running an illegal cartel to fix prices for the two most popular professional videotape formats, namely Betacam SP and Digital Betacam, which are mainly used by TV stations and independent producers of TV programs and advertising films.

The Commission started an investigation on its own initiative with surprise inspections, carried out at the premises of Sony’s, Fuji’s and Maxell’s European subsidiaries in May 2002. Investigation revealed that the three companies, with a combined share of more than 85% of the professional video tape market, organized three successful rounds of price increases and endeavored to stabilize prices whenever an increase was not possible.

They also regularly monitored the implementation of the price agreements. In addition to the fines, the commission said any person or firm affected by the three companies’ behavior may also seek damages before the courts of the EU member states. (people)