On Dec. 5, 2012, the European Commission issued the largest ever antitrust fine on companies involved in the cathode ray tubes (CRT) cartels. The fine, totaling €1.47 billion ($1.96 billion), was imposed on eight major electronics companies including Samsung, Philips, Panasonic, LG and Toshiba. The fine is more than twice the size of the second-largest fine issued under Commissioner Joaquín Almunia in the LCD cartel, €649 million ($864 million), and the largest since the €1.4 billion ($1.86 billion) fine issued in 2008 under Commissioner Neelie Kroes in the car glass cartel. The CRT cartels, involving infringements relating to CRTs for televisions and CRTs for computer monitors, were described by Almunia as “textbook” cartels. Almunia emphasized the “serious harm” that the CRT cartels did to television and monitor producers in the European Union.

The total fines imposed by the Commission in 2012 far exceeded fines in 2011. In 2012, the Commission issued four decisions with fines totaling €1.74 billion ($2.31 billion)—€1.88 billion ($2.5 billion) when including re-imposed fines. In 2011, fines totaled just €614 million ($817 million). The total fines in both years were significantly lower than in 2010, when the Commission issued some €2.87 billion ($3.82 billion) of cartel fines.

The CRT cartel fine serves as a warning to companies involved in ongoing cartel investigations, and may encourage more use of the Commission’s settlement procedures. The Commission’s press release is available here.