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Crime Businesses Displays Government Politics

Samsung, Toshiba, Others Accused of LCD Price-Fixing 269

Posted by kdawson
from the just-happened-to-be-in-the-same-hotel dept.
GovTechGuy writes "Toshiba, Samsung, Sharp, LG and other major technology companies allegedly colluded to fix the prices of LCD screens used in televisions and computers, according to an antitrust suit filed Friday by New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo. The complaint alleges that top-level executives at those firms attended secret meetings on a monthly or quarterly basis where they agreed upon minimum prices, price targets, increases and rates to be charged to specific computer manufacturers. The suit also accuses the companies of exchanging product information, agreeing to output levels and keeping prices artificially high by avoiding competition. Cuomo is seeking hundreds of millions of dollars in damages and punitive charges for the alleged overcharging of state institutions."
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Samsung, Toshiba, Others Accused of LCD Price-Fixing

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  • We will see... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Pharmboy (216950) on Friday August 06, 2010 @05:28PM (#33168674) Journal

    We will see what comes out in court, although I'm holding back judgement until I see the evidence. If they are doing what the complaint alleges, then yes, fine them enough to discourage them (and others) in the future, ie: heavily. Personally I'm glad to see a bit of consumer protection going on for a change. The FTC has become pretty much useless over the last few decades.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by poetmatt (793785)

      I hope they get around to hard drive price fixing too. It's been going on for 10 years now.

    • Wasn't Samsung (among others) recently in trouble for price fixing/collusion in the Flash RAM market?

      Samsung - I do not think it means what you think it means.
    • Re:We will see... (Score:5, Insightful)

      by sexconker (1179573) on Friday August 06, 2010 @07:26PM (#33169986)

      We will see what comes out in court, although I'm holding back judgement until I see the evidence. If they are doing what the complaint alleges, then yes, fine them enough to discourage them (and others) in the future, ie: heavily. Personally I'm glad to see a bit of consumer protection going on for a change. The FTC has become pretty much useless over the last few decades.

      Fine them?
      This is the problem.
      There is no punishment.

      JAIL the ones responsible - the CXOs and board members.
      FORCE the company to sell their products at government-determined fair prices or FORBID them from doing business in the US.

      Problem fucking SOLVED.

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by eiMichael (1526385)

        Exactly. They conspired against the free market. You know what we used to do to the people that did that? Look back at McCarthy. Your ass would be blacklisted and you could no longer play with others that followed the rules. They would also spare no expense at throwing the legal system at you (regardless of the legality of their arguments).

        Weather or not I agree with what happened back then it is plain to see just how different the American public feels about protecting their Free Market these days.

    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Beer Drunk (1059846)
      One of these days the foreign manufacturers will realize that America is broke and they don't need us anymore as customers since all we do is buy things with money we borrow from their countries and probably can't pay back. We will then revert to a stone age civilization since all our manufacturing has been exported to other places and the lawyers can sue each other for hides and buffalo dung etc.
  • by jpolonsk (739332) on Friday August 06, 2010 @05:28PM (#33168686)
    In areas where prices are dropping rapidly its interesting that they are able to find price fixing. It used to be memory now I guess it's moved on to screens.
  • Par for the course (Score:5, Insightful)

    by RiddleofSteel (819662) on Friday August 06, 2010 @05:39PM (#33168830)
    Sadly this is one of the biggest problems with out country today. The biggest bane to Capitalism is a monopoly. And unfortunately almost every major product we buy be it power, automobiles, computers, food, media, etc. has a group of three or four huge companies that completely control that market. They get together and price fix, control the market, and even control the laws and regulations that are supposed to keep them in check. These types of collusion are no good except for the people at the top of these companies and their stock holders.
    • by tlhIngan (30335) <slashdot@wSLACKWAREorf.net minus distro> on Friday August 06, 2010 @06:21PM (#33169324)

      Sadly this is one of the biggest problems with out country today. The biggest bane to Capitalism is a monopoly. And unfortunately almost every major product we buy be it power, automobiles, computers, food, media, etc. has a group of three or four huge companies that completely control that market. They get together and price fix, control the market, and even control the laws and regulations that are supposed to keep them in check. These types of collusion are no good except for the people at the top of these companies and their stock holders.

      Actually, monopolies are the goal of capitalism. It's the ideal end-game - to own the entire market. If you can't own it, then you'll either acquire your competition, or collude to ensure that everyone can go home with big fat paycheques and bonuses and lots of cash. And that's the goal of a capitalistic society - to earn as much money as possible.

      What threatens a monopoly the most is the young startup who dares to disturb whatever nice arrangement you have making money. Which a monopoly or a collusion would go and prevent by either outright purchasing the new competition, or make it impossible for it to survive, by dumping.

      Monopolies are allowed and legal, however, governments tend to institute measures to ensure that monopolies don't abuse their power (leveraging a monopoly in one area to gain it on another, dumping to drive competition out of business, etc).

      • by FooAtWFU (699187) on Friday August 06, 2010 @06:34PM (#33169466) Homepage
        Capitalism is a system. Systems hate it when you anthromorphize them.

        Monopoly profits may be the goal of capitalists, but when they're not colluding (or when there are low enough barriers to entry that it doesn't matter, which may not be the case here, especially with patents involved) other capitalists just stab each other in the back (business-wise) so they can get their share. Eventually, they're just making normal profits, and it's not all that interesting, so they can go off and do other things with their money.

        That's the "everyman" take-away, anyway.

    • by rickb928 (945187)

      "power, automobiles, computers, food, media"

      Power - Always has been a local monopoly in America. Usually driven by who owns the power distribution network.

      Automobiles - Ford, GM, Chrysler, Toyota, Nissan, Subaru, Mitsubishi, Honda, Kia, Hyundai, Volkswagen/BMW, Mercedes, Fiat, Tata, and I'm forgetting a few actual companies. Plenty of competition I think.

      Computers - Lenovo, Dell, Gateway, Toshiba, Panasonic, HP, Acer, Apple. Now this is an area where competition seems lacking, right? Who did I miss?

      Food

      • by Anonymous Coward

        You're confusing what are basically brands with manufacturers.

        Many of the automotive companies you listed make cars for one another. That ends up rendering them more as brands, rather than outright manufacturers. Even then, many of them buy their parts from the same parts manufacturers, and only act as mere assemblers most of the time.

        The situation is even worse with computers. Like with the automotive companies you listed, all of those computer companies merely assemble computers. They all use components m

        • I like how you took a stab at apple while making a point. Clever, and I agree.
        • by Dogtanian (588974)

          The situation is even worse with computers. Like with the automotive companies you listed, all of those computer companies merely assemble computers. They all use components made by a very small number of manufacturers

          The obvious- and most central- example is that of the x86 PC's CPU itself, where the market is basically a duopoly that's just a few not-quite-competitive AMD releases away from being a monopoly.

    • by Grishnakh (216268) on Friday August 06, 2010 @06:26PM (#33169376)

      The thing is, market forces work so that companies naturally merge to only 3 or 4 main competitors when an industry is mature. When the industry is young, sure, there's lots of smaller competitors. But as the industry matures, the poorer competitors die out, and others merge together, and eventually there's only 3 or 4. At this time, these larger companies are able to take advantage of economies of scale that smaller competitors cannot, and as the industry and technology is mature, new small competitors can't bring any new innovation to the table that outweighs their lack of brand recognition and economies of scale. We saw this in the automotive industry, and many others.

      In a healthy market with a mature industry, 3 or 4 main competitors is the most efficient. The catch is, you need a decent government in place which oversees them and makes sure that they don't form a cartel or collude in any way to screw over the customers. Without any government regulation, you'll either end up with a cartel/oligopoly, or a monopoly, and then you don't have a free market at all, since there's no real competition and no choice for the consumers.

      Unfortunately, the Rand-worshiping free-market fans almost always forget about the role government has in ensuring the marketplace remains a level playing field. (And those who oppose the free-market Randians want a giant centralized government that basically micromanages everything.)

      • Basically, we need to forbid politicians from entering the corporate upper management for a length of time and also forbid the converse. Additionally, we need to impose severe restrictions on who can contribute to political campaigns both directly and indirectly through separate agencies. Its really a joke how much corruption hits capital hill. Unfortunately I don't see any reason it will ever get better unless a highly educated population has a revolution. There were only a few times this happened in the h
        • by Grishnakh (216268)

          I have another idea: how about a law forbidding lawyers from holding public office? I think that would solve many of our problems. The way it is now, most people in Congress are lawyers, the President is a lawyer, and everyone in the Supreme Court is a lawyer.

          At the very most, only Congresspeople should be allowed to be lawyers, since they write the laws. The President and SCOTUS Justices should never be lawyers.

          • SCOTUS Justices should never be lawyers

            Wait, what? The people who are the ultimate arbiters of law in the country, capable of setting binding precedent, and overturning any other legal or court decision in the country, should not have any formal training in law?!? That should make things interesting...

            Actually, I think the situation of Congress being what, 90%+ lawyers, is the one that needs to change. Even if it means Congress gets its own special legal team to draft legislation as passed by Congress.

            • by Grishnakh (216268)

              Wait, what? The people who are the ultimate arbiters of law in the country, capable of setting binding precedent, and overturning any other legal or court decision in the country, should not have any formal training in law?!? That should make things interesting...

              I never said that. I only said they shouldn't be lawyers.

              Instead, they should be judges. Who went to school to be judges, not lawyers.

              That's the way France does it, as does other Civil Code countries. Judges are not former lawyers; they're speci

      • by Rockoon (1252108)

        Unfortunately, the Rand-worshiping free-market fans almost always forget about the role government has in ensuring the marketplace remains a level playing field.

        The rand-worshipers that I have heard have pointed out the role that government has in enabling and creating monopolies.

        Patents, Licenses, Grants, etc.. barriers to entry.. brought to you by Uncle Sam.

        Economies of scale isnt a valid argument. Even in mature markets with only 2 or 3 competitors, its not unheard of for a new competitor to enter the market and be successful. If there is enough money to be made, investors will follow, and start-ups can be huge from the outset because of it.

        When I was gro

        • by Grishnakh (216268)

          Randians are full of shit. Standard Oil didn't need patents to build a monopoly. Yes, economies of scale are a valid argument, despite whatever you're smoking. Bigger companies can buy in bigger quantities, and get better discounts. The only way new competitors enter the market is if they have a new innovation that outweighs the economies of scale their entrenched competitors enjoy. In a mature industry, this isn't likely. For instance, if you want to start an oil company to compete with Chevron, Texa

          • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

            by Rockoon (1252108)

            Yes, economies of scale are a valid argument, despite whatever you're smoking. Bigger companies can buy in bigger quantities, and get better discounts.

            Companies can enter the market as a big player. This can be a new startup with a lot of investors, or an existing company entering a new market. If you dont address that point then you are just repeating the refuted argument.

            As far as Standard Oil, it was broken up and rightly so. But you are forgetting that Standard Oil's main leverage was railroad discrimination, and the existing railroads had a government protected monopoly. The government created Standard Oil's advantage.

      • The thing is, market forces work so that companies naturally merge to only 3 or 4 main competitors when an industry is mature. ... At this time, these larger companies are able to take advantage of economies of scale that smaller competitors cannot, and as the industry and technology is mature, new small competitors can't bring any new innovation to the table that outweighs their lack of brand recognition and economies of scale.

        So far so good...

        The catch is, you need a decent government in place which overs

      • Unfortunately, the Rand-worshiping free-market fans almost always forget about the role government has in ensuring the marketplace remains a level playing field.

        And what of the role of government in allowing these corporations to exist in the first place? Partnerships and companies rarely achieve anything near the size of corporations.

  • by Fry-kun (619632) on Friday August 06, 2010 @05:40PM (#33168840)

    Whose ass do you have to sue to get some highres monitors around here?

    • by Sabriel (134364)

      If they can't fix the price, they may well have to compete more on actual features...

    • by haruchai (17472)

      Did you know that "FTW" ("for the win") is a direct translation of "Sieg Heil"?

      No, I didn't and no, it's not. The direct translation is Hail Victory.

    • by Locke2005 (849178)
      I just bought a Samsung 27" 1920x1080 monitor, which is plenty highres enough for me. The monitor only is $330 at Costco, the monitor with digital TV built in is $380, for for $50 I went for the one with a tuner, remote control, and build in speakers.
      • 1920x1080 @ 27" is merely 81.5 DPI -- high res, sure, but still quite pixelated. I bet the GP meant to say high-DPI screens.
      • by Jaime2 (824950) on Friday August 06, 2010 @07:56PM (#33170226)
        I'm posting this from a 1920x1200 24" monitor that I bought three years ago for about $200.00. Almost nobody makes an affordable display with more than 1080 rows any more. You can blame HDTV for it, monitor manufacturers would much rather sell computer users the HDTV screens they are already making than create computer-specific resolutions. Before HDTV, monitors were on a steady march to higher resolution, after 1080p became popular, monitors backtracked and have been stuck ever since.
    • by A Friendly Troll (1017492) on Friday August 06, 2010 @08:03PM (#33170280)

      Whose ass do you have to sue to get some highres monitors around here?

      Forget it.

      The only way that's going to happen is if the pixel count gets magically quadrupled, so you can immediately jump from 1900x1200 on a 24" monitor to 3800x2400.

      Any intermediate solutions simply wouldn't work due to issues with scaling existing content. Read: it would look like blurred shit. If you don't want to scale things up in size and keep everything 1:1, then tough luck, because it would require perfect vision and strain the eyes, which would make it inaccessible for the vast majority of people out there (and even then, there are limits). I have a 22" running the bog-standard 1680x1050, and to be honest, sometimes I wouldn't mind having a 24" with the same resolution for extra comfort, after a long day of work...

      Scale up: looks like shit
      Don't scale up: include a magnifying glass with the monitor

      Now, if the pixel count gets quadrupled, then you can keep everything displayed completely the same as now, have the OS lie about resolution and scale everything internally, but also add some new API functions to allow apps to draw certain things (such as font glyphs) at the true native resolution. About seven to ten years later (!), you could consider the transitions successful because all monitors sold would be high-res, all maintained software would have been written to make use of the new API, and all toolbar icons would have been quadrupled in resolution as well.

      Unfortunately, you'd still have the issue of graphics on the web, so you'd also need a new image format that would hold a low res and a high res version, and if you said something was "300px" wide, it would technically be a lie, but never mind that.

      In conclusion, it's not going to happen, and you can forget it :)

      • In conclusion, it's not going to happen, and you can forget it

        Really? In a hundred years, the maximum vertical resolution on a display will be 1080?

        The reasonable question is, 'when'? At some point current small high-res screen tech yields will be good enough that the TV companies can spend next to nothing more and have a marketing advantage. That still seems to be a few years off, unfortunately.

    • I love the way you're modded "interesting" and not "funny". Some people apparently haven't given up on their faith in the legal system's ability to poke its nose where it doesn't belong. :-)

  • such as any telco company, VOIP termination provider, or even gasoline?
    • No. At least, hopefully not. Most of these things are controlled by raw material prices, production costs, taxes, upstream suppliers who also supply other stores, etc. The prices may seem to be fixed across lots of stores, but really lots of stores just share the same costs, and sell competitively, so prices end up much the same everywhere. For instance, most garages/petrol stations don't make much money on fuel; they make it on the snacks and cigarettes and groceries that people buy while they're payin

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      or even gasoline?

      Yeah ... ever hear of OPEC ? They basically do this at a multi national level. Although, I really don't know if the price would be any different if they didn't. Demand has almost outstripped supply capacities.

      • Gas would be cheaper for sure. They do the same thing DeBeers does. Limit the supply, maintain demand, price goes up.
      • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

        by runner_one (455793)

        I have never understood this. Every few months we hear about a new round of companies in trouble for price fixing for one product or another.
        Yet OPEC gets together and does it right out in the open, heck their meetings are on the network news, and we just bend over and take it up the pooper.
          I just don't get it.

        • Because OPEC is a bunch of foreign governments, which aren't subject to our laws.
          • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

            by Antisyzygy (1495469)
            Well, they are subject to our borders. Unfortunately we cannot continue existing without their oil. Its completely the fault of our senators and presidents for the last 25 years for allowing such a dependence to occur. It is a blatant security threat. We should be beating their old asses up for it.
      • by geekoid (135745)

        oh yeah, oil prices have often been change due to things besides supply and demand.

  • sounds familiar (Score:3, Interesting)

    by gandhi_2 (1108023) on Friday August 06, 2010 @05:42PM (#33168868) Homepage

    agreeing to output levels and keeping prices artificially high

    Sounds familiar. [wikipedia.org]

  • now we can get to... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by sevenfactorial (996184) on Friday August 06, 2010 @06:02PM (#33169112)

    This is great. Hopefully in the near future we can address price fixing in everything else, like text-messages, internet service, cell phone service .... etc etc etc.

    What happened to trust busting?

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by jmerlin (1010641)
      To offset the insane price markup on text messaging, it's going to need to cost each one of those companies some billions of dollars. They've been doing it forever, charging $5/month for 300 texts or $20/month for unlimited, when in fact it costs them $0.000000 for each text message. That markup nears infinity, it's clearly a massive scam, too bad the FCC is too busy failing in every way possible, if we had a real FCC texting would be free already. To be honest, how has this texting scam remained so long
  • by mc6809e (214243) on Friday August 06, 2010 @06:03PM (#33169136)

    Under fixed prices, they could worry less about lowering prices and instead concentrate on quality and eliminating dead pixels.

    But what we see instead is cut-throat competition on price that lowers quality. The same thing happened to the airlines after deregulation. Under regulation, prices were fixed. They now compete on price only and quality has suffered.

    Sometimes competition on price can be destructive. Jobs are lost, quality suffers, and ultimately monopolies emerge after competitors have been driven out of business.

  • "unburleyvable" pointed out an important point here (wish I had some mod points), this isn't the first time around with price fixing with this stuff. I for one think that something new has to be applied to the situation based upon track record. It would seem that their perspective (manufacturer's) after getting caught must be that the point isn't not to do it (price fix) but not to get caught doing it.

    Greg
  • by erroneus (253617) on Friday August 06, 2010 @06:33PM (#33169446) Homepage

    We need jail time for decision makers. I mean serious jail time. We have seen this over and over and over again with chips and LCDs and CDs and all manner of things like this. It's not as if they don't know it's illegal. They KNOW it is illegal. It is time to either make this type of behavior legal or to get serious about the punishment. Corporations are too often shields for unethical, unlawful, immoral, inhumane, harmful and illegal behavior. When the "corporation" takes all the risk, what is to stop individuals from persisting?

    • by selven (1556643)

      Well at least it looks like they might be getting fined here. That's better than another article here I read recently where the punishment for breaking the law is "don't break the law any more for the next 10 years please". I wish I could get that kind of treatment.

    • by Jamu (852752)

      When the "corporation" takes all the risk, what is to stop individuals from persisting?

      Isn't that the purpose of the company? To move individual responsibility to an abstract legal entity.

    • Illegal and immoral are different things. I would bet they took protections to make it as legal as possible.
    • We need jail time for decision makers. I mean serious jail time.

      Why is sentencing people to prison rape always the solution? "the punishment should fit the crime", right? Fine them 2x what they made from it, maybe bar them from holding that sort of position in the future.

      • by erroneus (253617)

        Individuals make the decisions. Fining a corporation does not punish the individuals responsible for the actions. Trying to extract "what they made from it" can and is hidden through dirty accounting tricks.

        Sentencing people to prison time is a deterrent to show that they have something to lose. At the moment, they have nothing to lose.

        • Fining a corporation does not punish the individuals responsible for the actions.

          Which is why you fine the people responsible, as well as the corporation.

          Trying to extract "what they made from it" can and is hidden through dirty accounting tricks.

          I'm sure they can come up with a reasonable upper bound.

          Sentencing people to prison time is a deterrent to show that they have something to lose.

          So is executing them. Why don't we just do that for everything?

          At the moment, they have nothing to lose.

          Apart from personal fortunes and nice jobs.

    • If you transfer risks to the individual people, then the people won't work for the corporations, and companies globally will crater.

      Can I subscribe to your newsletter so that I may have something to burn to keep me warm when we enter the dark age that would happen if your kind of thinking gained momentum globally?

  • Perhaps someone can explain/frame for me the whole notion of regulating anti-competitive behavior, and how legal authority to regulate is derived/justified from consistent principles, in a nascent industry? Because it seems very case-by-case to me, as well as pick-and-choose based on "what we don't like".

    What I mean is that I sometimes don't understand cases like the following:

    - Companies making LCD screens are accused of price fixing for charging high prices, yet Apple, which is the only producer of
    • First of all monopolies are NOT illegal, abusing one is. Secondly, Apple holds absolutely NO monopolies in any sector of business, at all. I think you really need to go and read about what a monopoly really is, in the CONTEXT of the law. XM and Sirius merged because they couldn't stay viable any other way. It was either let them merge or watch them both slowly die. That was a big part of the SEC scrutiny and ultimately why it was allowed. It becomes society right when a manufacturer controls so much of a
    • by geekoid (135745)

      The iPhone isn't a market, the cell phone industry is. SO if apple became the dominant players, they could have a monopoly.

      Monoply law is more detailed then portrayed here on /.

      Also, someone needs to file a suit. So if you are abusing your monopoly, but now one files then nothing will be done.

      Too answer your last question:
      Sure I would be frustrated. But just because I create the technology doesn't mean I get to stop other people from doing similar things. If you have a bread store, you can't tell me not to

      • Unfortunately for you, my IP includes many recipes for various forms of bread. If you make anything resembling I will be forced to take legal action against you for copyright infringement.
    • by cowscows (103644)

      Price fixing is different than setting a price. It's not illegal to set a price, you can generally charge whatever you want and let people decide whether or not to buy it. It only becomes problematic if you control such a big portion of that particular market that you're using your position to unfairly suppress competitors, or to charge a price beyond what the market would normally accept. (Or colluding with the other players in the market to do the same). The iPhone is, at the end of the day, just a fancy

  • ...is if the fine costs far more than what was made from the corrupt action. If it isn't, then the fine is no more than a cost of doing business. As in most cases, the fine probably *won't* be greater than the profits made, and thus there is nothing good that will come of it.

  • Sigh (Score:4, Interesting)

    by ADRA (37398) on Friday August 06, 2010 @10:06PM (#33171054)

    If only OPEC could be held to the standards of everyone else...

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