European Commission investigating 13 companies for optical drive price-fixing

The European Commission is digging it its heels and officially launching an investigation into 13 companies for allegedly rigging bids on optical drives with at least two major OEMs. The companies haven't been named, but it's safe to assume if the Commission is getting involved these aren't two-bit players selling cheap knockoffs. With the Statement of Objections issued, now its a matter of gathering evidence and formally charging those it can build a case against. With an e-book investigation underway and a DRAM conspiracy not far in its past, the existence of an optical drive cartel is probably not the sort of news the Commission wants to hear right now. Sadly, there's not much detail to share, but you'll find the complete and brief PR after the break. Now its just time to sit back and wait to see what companies we're allowed to start hating next.

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Antitrust: Commission sends Statement of Objections to suspected participants in a cartel for the supply of computer CD and DVD drives

The European Commission has informed thirteen companies supplying optical disk drives in the European Economic Area (EEA) of its preliminary view that they may have infringed EU antitrust rules by participating in a worldwide cartel. Optical disk drives read or write data on CDs and DVDs. The Commission has concerns that those suppliers may have coordinated their behaviour in bidding events organised by two major original equipment manufacturers for optical disk drives used in personal computers (desktops and notebooks) and in servers. The sending of a Statement of Objections does not prejudge the final outcome of the investigation.

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. This behaviour, if established, may have ultimately affected customers that bought optical disk drives manufactured by the companies concerned.

Procedural background

A statement of objections is a formal step in Commission investigations into suspected violations of EU rules that prohibit cartels and restrictive business practices (Article 101 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union and Article 53 of the European Economic Area Agreement). The Commission informs the parties concerned in writing of the objections raised against them and the companies can examine the documents on the Commission's investigation file, reply in writing and request an oral hearing to present their comments on the case before representatives of the Commission and national competition authorities.

The duration of cartel investigations varies according to the complexity of the case, the number of markets and companies involved and whether they cooperate with the Commission.

If, after the parties have exercised their right of defence, the Commission concludes that there is sufficient evidence of an infringement it can issue a decision prohibiting the conduct and impose a fine of up to 10 % of a company's annual worldwide turnover. This is without prejudice to a company's ability to receive full immunity for being the first to reveal information about a cartel or to receive a reduction in its fine for supplying evidence of significant added value according to the Commission's Leniency Notice.