On 5 January 2018 the Competition Commission of Singapore (CCS) imposed a record-breaking fine of over SGD19.5 million (approximately £11 million) on five capacitor manufacturers (with one manufacturer receiving full immunity) for engaging in anti-competitive practices in the sale of aluminium electrolytic capacitors (AECs), including price-fixing and exchange of confidential information. AECs are electrical components used in electrical devices such as computers and other domestic appliances.

The manufacturers were respectively ELNA Electronics (S) Pte. Ltd., Nichicon Singapore Pte. Ltd.,

Panasonic Industrial Devices Singapore and Panasonic Industrial Devices Malaysia Sdn. Bhd, Rubycon Singapore Pte. Ltd. and Singapore Chemi-Con Pte. Ltd. (SCC). Panasonic was the leniency applicant and therefore received immunity from fines.

The CCS launched its investigation in May 2014 and found that, from 1997 to 2013, the parties systematically: (i) exchanged confidential and commercially sensitive information about the pricing of their products and future pricing intentions; (ii) discussed and agreed on sales prices, including various price increases; and (iii) agreed collectively to reject customers’ requests for AEC price reductions. Such conduct reduced price competition between the parties (which together made up more than two-thirds of the Singaporean AEC sales market), limited customers’ alternatives for AEC suppliers and allowed the parties to maintain their market share while sustaining price increases. 

In imposing this record fine, the CCS took into account the parties’ high combined market share, the homogenous nature of AECs and the long duration of the cartel. Since price is an important competitive element to homogenous products, the parties’ conduct was considered to have had a significant adverse impact on consumers. Consistent with the CCS’s Guidelines on the Appropriate Amount of Penalty (which came into effect in December 2016), each party’s penalty consisted of (i) a base penalty, which reflects the seriousness of the infringement, multiplied by (ii) the number of years the party infringed the law. 

This case provides useful insight into the practice of the CCS in determining financial penalties and is consistent with the current trend in competition authorities imposing increasing antitrust fines across Asia.