Over in Europe, a handful of chipmakers were fined by the European Union for illegally fixing prices. The names of the alleged companies include Elpida, Hitachi, Hynix, Infineon, Mitsubishi, Nanya, NEX, Samsung, and Toshiba. Micron was also accused of price fixing, however the company escaped the heavy fines in return for ratting out the other nine.
The EU said that the price-fixing operation covered 1998 to 2002, and featured a network of contacts that shared secret company information. Apparently they all agreed to set a fixed price for DRAM chips sold to major PC makers and server manufacturers, and got away with it over the four years. EU law specifically prohibits practices that restrict competition. Because the ten companies sell products within the European Economic Area, the law applies to their secret operation.
While additional details weren't given, Micron approached the EU sometime in 2002 and provided enough information to kick-start an investigation by the Commission. Eventually everyone pleaded guilty.
"By acknowledging their participation in a cartel the companies have allowed the Commission to bring this long-running investigation to a close and to free up resources to investigate other suspected cartels," said the EU's Competition Commissioner, Joaquin Almunia. All nine entities received a 10-percent cut in overall penalties in return for their admittance and co-operation with the probe.
On a whole, the EU fined the group $404.2M USD. Samsung received the biggest hit, forced to cough up $179.1M USD whereas Infineon received a $70M USD fine.