The European Commission imposed on 3 September 2014 fines of up to EUR 138,000,000 for a cartel between Infineon, Philips, Samsung and Renesas between September 2003 and September 2005. Renesas benefited from full immunity for revealing the existence of the cartel to the Commission under the Commission’s Leniency Notice.
In 2008, Renesas, a joint venture between Hitachi and Mitsubishi, lodged a leniency request before the Commission regarding a cartel between smart card chip producers. Smart card chips are used for the production of smart cards such as telephone SIM cards, bank cards and identity cards.
Following this leniency application, an investigation was initiated in 2008 and the Commission carried out unannounced inspections (dawn raids) in several Member States. The Commission had initially considered concluding a settlement with some of the companies involved in the case. However, the discussions were discontinued in 2012 and the Commission issued in 2013 a statement of objections in order to give the companies at stake the opportunity to comment and to take part in a hearing on the alleged competition infringement. At the end of the investigation, the Commission decided that Infineon, Philips, Samsung and Renesas had taken part in a cartel in the sector of smart card chips in the European Economic area. It found evidence that those companies concluded a network of bilateral contracts in order to determine their respective responses to customers’ requests to lower prices. Sensitive commercial information on pricing, customers, contract negotiation, production capacity and capacity utilization was discussed and exchanged between competitors. Those bilateral contracts were in force between September 2003 and September 2005. This type of collusion is prohibited by Article 101 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union and by Article 53 of the Agreement on the European Economic Area.
Therefore, the Commission adopted a decision on 3 September 2014 imposing the following fines:
- Infineon: EUR 82,784,000
- Philips: EUR 20,148,000
- Samsung: EUR 35,116,000.
Renesas was granted full immunity for having revealed the existence of the cartel to the Commission and avoided a fine that would have exceeded EUR 51,000,000 for its participation in the cartel. Samsung benefited from a reduction of 30% of its fine as it had cooperated in the investigation.