The Fair Trade Commission (FTC) resolved at the Commissioner’s meeting on December 9, 2015 that seven aluminum capacitor companies, namely Nippon Chemi-Con Corporation (NCC), Hong Kong Chemi-Con Limited (NCC HK), Taiwan Chemi-Con Corporation (NCC TW), Rubycon Corporation (RUBYCON), ELNA Co., Ltd. (ELNA), SANYO Electric (Hong Kong) Ltd. (SANYO HK), and Nichicon (Hong Kong) Ltd. (NICHICON HK); and three tantalum capacitor companies, NEC TOKIN Corporation (NEC TOKIN), Vishay Polytech Co., Ltd. (VISHAY POLYTEC), and Matsuo Electric Co., Ltd. (MATSUO), participated in meetings or bilateral communications to exchange sensitive business information such as prices, quantity, capacity, and terms of trade to reach the agreement on restraint of competition. This conduct was sufficient to affect the market function with respect to supply and demand of capacitors in Taiwan, and was in violation of Paragraph 1, Article 14 of the Fair Trade Act at the time. Therefore, the FTC imposed administrative fines of NT$1,868,300,000 on NCC, NT$82,900,000 on NCC HK, NT$293,800,000 on NCC TW, NT$1,248,000,000 on RUBYCON, NT$76,600,000 on ELNA, NT$842,000,000 on SANYO HK, and NT$111,300,000 on NICHICON HK. The amounts of the fines on the aluminum capacitor companies totaled NT$ 4,522,900,000. The FTC imposed administrative fines of NT$1,218,200,000 on NEC TOKIN, NT$31,200,000 on VISHAY POLYTEC, and NT$24,300,000 on MATSUO. The amounts of the fines on the tantalum capacitor companies totaled NT$ 1,273,700,000. The fines in this case totaled NT$5,796,600,000, and were the highest which have ever been imposed on international enterprises since establishment of the FTC. Moreover, it was the first time the FTC had imposed fines on international enterprises in accordance with the fining principle under Paragraph 2, Article 40 of the Fair Trade Act which aims to penalize serious violation of the concerted action.
The FTC’s investigation revealed that Japan capacitor companies had convened several multilateral meetings and engaged in bilateral communication since the 1980’s, and had exchanged sensitive business information such as prices, quantity, capacity, and terms of trade to reach the agreement on restraint of competition. Products involved in this case included aluminum capacitors and tantalum capacitors. There are seven aluminum capacitor companies, including NCC, NCC HK, NCC TW, RUBYCON, ELNA, SANYO HK and NICHICON HK, that have been involved in this case, each to a different extent and duration of attending meetings. Starting from 2005 at the earliest to January 2014 at the latest, the companies convened the MK Meeting (Marketing Study Meeting), CUP Meeting (Cost Up Meeting), and SM Meeting (Hong Kong Sales Manager Meeting) in Japan and other countries, or conspired bilaterally via e-mails, telephone calls, or gatherings to exchange sensitive business information such as prices, quantity, capacity, and terms of trade for reaching the agreement on restraint of competition. In addition, the three tantalum capacitor companies, namely NEC TOKIN, VISHAY POLYTEC and MATSUO, also exchanged sensitive business information such as prices, quantity, capacity, and terms of trade for reaching the agreement on restraint of competition in the above-mentioned MK Meeting and conspired bilaterally via e-mails, telephone calls, or gatherings to exchange sensitive business information or discuss the prices.
Despite the fact that such meetings or discussions took place mostly outside the territory of Taiwan, the FTC indicated that the scale of Taiwan aluminum capacitor companies is far smaller than that of the Japanese capacitor companies, and that domestic electronic companies largely rely on the companies involved in this case for the supply of capacitors. Moreover, there are no domestic tantalum capacitor companies, and all tantalum capacitors are fully imported. Besides, the FTC estimated the total sales revenue of the aluminum capacitors and tantalum capacitors of the companies involved in this case at NT$50 billion and NT$16 billion respectively during the term of their concerted action. In addition, the aluminum capacitor companies NCC, RUBYCON and NICHICON are the top three aluminum capacitor companies in the world, and the tantalum capacitor companies involved in this case also have considerable market shares. Hence, the companies' actions in this case have had a direct, substantial, and reasonably foreseeable impact on the domestic market.
The FTC indicated that the unlawful conduct spanned nearly a decade and the illegal profit gained from Taiwan’s market was considerably high. Therefore, the FTC has determined that this case is a serious violation punishable by a fine in accordance with Paragraph 2, Article 40 of the Fair Trade Act. It is noteworthy that the FTC calculated administrative fines of no more than 10% of each company’s sales revenue in the previous fiscal year on the basis of each company’s "global" sales rather than Taiwan sales only. In addition, this case applies to the leniency program, requiring the FTC to keep the identity of the leniency applicant confidential in accordance with the “Regulations on Immunity and Reduction of Fines in Illegal Concerted Action Cases.” Hence, the FTC hasn’t shown the proportion or amount of each company’s immunity or reduction of fines while publishing the table stating the amount of each company’s fines.
In the press release, the FTC indicated that it had worked with competition authorities of the US, EU and Singapore in investigation activities since the beginning. In addition to coordinating a synchronized investigation action on 28 March, 2014, the FTC also exchanged experience in evidence collection and investigation with these agencies through telephone conferences or e-mails. The FTC’s decision is the first among competition agencies and will be of high attention internationally, as this case is still under investigation at least in countries such as the EU, US, Japan, Korea, Singapore and China etc. This case has shown that the FTC will not treat domestic or international concerted actions leniently, and has shown the FTC’s ambition to gear the enforcement to international practices.