If you purchased a TV, monitor, or laptop between 2001 and 2006, then there’s a good chance that you paid too much for it. On Friday, the Federal Bureau of Investigation reported that it had discovered and prosecuted those involved in an LCD price fixing conspiracy.
According to the report, a Taiwanese LCD producer — AU Optronics Corporation — and two former executives, have been sentenced for LCD price fixing. The two execs will spend three years in federal prison and the company will be forced to pay $500 million in fines.
In what sounds like a scene from a movie, the report describes how the price fixing occurred:
“A few days after the terrorist attacks of 9/11, top-level executives from a number of Asian manufacturers of LCD panels met secretly in a Taiwan hotel room and agreed to a plan to fix the prices of LCDs in the U.S. and elsewhere.”
As the executives caught wind of a potential investigation, they became more cautious with their meetings. They moved from private hotel rooms to public restaurants, and started meeting one-on-one, instead of in large groups. The executives also began sending lower-level employees in their place.
AU Optronics sells LCD panels to various big-name electronics companies all over the world. Because the prices for the components were higher than what the market would usually demand, consumers often paid more for their devices. The FBI says that over $2.3 billion worth of price-fixed LCD panels were sold into the United States throughout the conspiracy.
While it does appear that justice has been served, the report makes no indication of any class-action lawsuit on the behalf of the consumers. So if you paid too much for your LCD product in those year, then you may be out of luck. However, it does send a powerful warning to component manufacturers all over the world.