ASUS, Philips, and a number of other technology firms have been fined by the European Union for price fixing, Brussels announced Tuesday. While the cases were judged individually, all four involved companies admitted to wrongdoing and opted to cooperate with the European Commission's competition watchdog, having ultimately ended up paying over €111 million ($130 million) in fines. In a tweet posted earlier today, EU Competition Commissioner Margrethe Vestager said the sanctions would have been much larger if Philips, ASUS, Pioneer, and Denon & Marantz chose not to be cooperative.
The fines will be paid directly to Brussels and no consumer compensation has been mentioned as part of the EC's ruling. ASUS ended up paying the bulk of the fine, with its share amounting to the equivalent of $74.22 million. The Taiwanese tech giant is found to have proactively sought to fix prices of select electronics such as monitors and laptops, as well as certain computer hardware in Germany and France over a period between 2011 and 2014. Retailers who offered its devices or products including ASUS-made components below the company's recommended prices were pressured by the firm to increase their price tags, which is in violation of the EU's competition law.
Philips was found to have conducted similar transgressions between 2011 and 2013 in France, with its price-fixing efforts encompassing everything from home entertainment systems and vacuum cleaners to kitchen appliances and electric toothbrushes. The Dutch company's fine issued by Brussels amounts to some $35 million. Audio equipment maker Pioneer admitted to similar behavior in 12 member states from 2011 to 2013, whereas another Japanese company, Denon & Marantz, admitted to doing the same in the Netherlands and Germany from 2011 to 2015 with the goal of controlling the prices of products from audio-video brands Denon, Boston Acoustic, and Marantz. The total fines could have been over 42-percent larger if the four companies opted to fight the EC's findings and lost, Brussels said. The move marks another hit the EU issued to big tech this month, with the political bloc imposing the largest antitrust fine in its history on Google only last week.
If a retailer was offering lower prices than @ASUS @dmprofessional, Pioneer and @Philips wanted, they told that retailer to increase prices, so consumers had to pay more. This is illegal under EU rules. The 4 companies admitted and cooperated, so fine reduced to €111 mio total.
— Margrethe Vestager (@vestager) July 24, 2018