Naughty, naughty, naughty...
The European Commission has followed up its tariff cutting, Microsoft butt-kicking, sense seeing recent heroics by slapping a whopping 75 million euro fine on Sony, Fuji and Maxell for price fixing in the professional videotape market. The trio have a combined share in excess of 85 per cent of this market sector.
"Between 1999 and 2002, Sony, Fuji and Maxell managed to raise or otherwise control prices through a series of regular meetings and other illicit contacts," a European Union representative said in a statement.
Sony was the biggest culprit and saw its fine increased 30 per cent to 47m euros for obstructing the investigation while Fuji and Hitachi had their fines cut 40 per cent and 20 per cent respectively to 13.2m euros and 14.4m euros after they ratted out co-operated.
"This decision sends two warnings to companies engaging in cartel activities," said Neelie Kroes, European Competition Commissioner. "First, the Commission can prosecute cartels effectively even without prompts from immunity applicants and second, obstructing a Commission antitrust investigation leads to severe penalties".
What Kroes didn't add was that the Commission also takes an incredibly long time to reach a decision which lets companies get away with such antics for far longer than they should. In the case of the Sony, Fuji and Maxell investigations they began all the way back in May 2002, while the infamous Microsoft case lasted nine years.
Still, it reinforces the happy notion that, eventually, those in the wrong get what's coming to them. A theory that lets me sleep soundly at night when I think of the prat in a red Sierra who cut me up last week.