The European Commission has fined eight optical disc drive suppliers, a total of €116 million for having coordinated their behaviour in relation to procurement tenders organised by two computer manufacturers, in breach of EU antitrust rules. Optical disc drives ("ODDs") read or record data stored on optical disks, such as CDs, DVDs or Blu-ray. They are used for instance in personal computers, CD and DVD players and video game consoles. The anti-competitive conduct subject to fines in this case concerns agreements to collude in procurement tenders for ODDs for laptops and desktops produced by Dell and Hewlett Packard (HP).Eight suppliers engaged in the illegal practices covered by this decision, namely Philips, Lite-On, their joint venture Philips &Lite-On Digital Solutions, Hitachi-LG Data Storage, Toshiba Samsung Storage Technology, Sony, Sony Optiarc and Quanta Storage. Under the Commission's 2006 Leniency Notice, Philips, Lite-On and their joint venture Philips &Lite-On Digital Solutions received full immunity from fines as they were the first to reveal the existence of the cartel.
The Commission's investigation revealed that between June 2004 and November 2008, the aforesaid contravening companies participated in the cartel by communicating to each other their intentions regarding bidding strategies, shared the results of procurement tenders and exchanged other commercially sensitive information concerning ODDs used in laptops and desktops. They organised a network of parallel bilateral contacts that pursued a single plan to avoid aggressive competition in procurement tenders organised by Dell and HP. Although the cartel contacts took place outside of the European Economic Area (EEA), they were implemented on a worldwide basis. Of the companies involved in the cartel, only Philips is headquartered in Europe. The remaining seven are headquartered in Asia. The duration of each company's involvement in the cartel varied and ranged from less than a year to over four years. In setting the level of fines, the Commission took into account, in particular, the companies' sales of the products concerned in the EEA, the serious nature of the infringement, its geographic scope and its duration. The fines achieve an appropriate level of deterrence while remaining proportional to the infringement. Philips, Lite-On and Philips &Lite-On jointly received full immunity from fines as they were the first to reveal the cartel to the Commission, thereby avoiding an aggregate fine of € 63.5 million. Hitachi-LG Data Storage received a 50% reduction on its fine for its cooperation in the investigation under the Commission's leniency programme and partial immunity for enabling the Commission to establish a longer duration of the cartel. In setting the fines, the Commission also took account of the fact that Philips, Sony and Sony Optiarc took part in the cartel behaviour only with regard to procurement tenders organised by Dell. However, the rest of the aforesaid contravening companies were penalised.