On 5 December 2012, the European Commission fined seven companies nearly €1.5 billion for their role in two ten-year long cartels fixing prices, sharing markets, allocating customers and restricting the output of two types of cathode ray tubes used in television and computer monitors. Joaquin Almunia labelled the cartels as ‘textbook’, and the Commission referred to them as “among the most organised cartels that the Commission has investigated”. The auditing of compliance even extended to the cartelists making plant visits to ensure capacity restrictions were being observed.
The cartel operated on a worldwide basis, with meetings held across Asia and Europe and affected both colour display tubes and colour picture tubes. Colour display tubes are used in computer monitors, whilst colour picture tubes are used in colour television screens. As the tubes account for 50-70% of the price of a screen, the Commission believes it has caused serious harm to television and computer screen producers, and ultimately to consumers. Five of the cartel members received reductions under the Leniency Notice, with Chunghwa receiving full immunity from fines in relation to both TV tubes and computer monitor tubes and other reductions ranging from 40% – 10%.