EC preparing Philips, Samsung and Infineon antitrust chip fines

EU ends antitrust case over price fixing of chips used in SIM cards

The European Commission is close to ending its antitrust investigation into smart card chip price-fixing from Samsung, Philips and Infineon, according to a report.

Reuters cites sources “familiar with the case” as saying that a final fine will be announced soon by the EC’s competition commissioners.

The European Commission confirmed the investigation to V3, but not its current status. It declined to comment on the Reuters report.

It said that the case began in 2008 with a raid on company premises, and has continued since. “On 21 October 2008 Commission officials carried out unannounced inspections at the premises of several smart card chips producers in several member states. These chips are used for the production of smart cards, such as telephone SIM cards, bank cards and identity cards,” it said.

“The Commission has reason to believe that the companies concerned may have violated EC treaty rules prohibiting practices such as price fixing, customer allocation and the exchange of commercially sensitive information.”

Since that time discussions have taken place, but the EC has been frustrated by the outcome so far. Last year JoaquĆ­n Almunia, EC vice president in charge of competition policy, said that he would soon close off the investigation.

“It is not because settlement talks fail that companies get off the hook. The essence of settlement is to benefit from a quicker, more efficient procedure, and to reach a common understanding on the existence and characteristics of a cartel,” said Almunia.

“If that is not possible, the Commission will not hesitate to revert to the normal procedure and to pursue the suspected infringement.”

Infineon and Philips declined to comment on the report.

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