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4 electronics manufacturers fined SG$19.5m for colluding on pricing

The Competition Commission of Singapore (CCS) has penalised four electronics manufacturers, at a record breaking SG$19.5 million, for engaging in anti-competitive agreements. The manufacturers are Rubycon Singapore, ELNA Electronics, Nichicon Singapore, Singapore Chemi-con (SCC).

Investigations followed after the Competition Commission of Singapore received an application for immunity under its leniency programme from Panasonic. As such, only Panasonic was the only listed manufacturer in its press statement to have not been fined.

The anti-competitive agreements included price-fixing and exchange of confidential sales, distribution and pricing information for aluminium electrolytic capacitors (AECs), in relation to Singapore customers. AECs are electrical components used in electronic devices such as computers and domestic appliances.

This led to the discussion and agreement on sales prices, including various price increases and the agreement to collectively reject customers’ requests for reduction in prices of AECs sold to them.  Without the cartel activity, the manufacturers would have had to draw customers with better prices or quality of products.

“The long-running cartel sheltered the parties’ profitability and market shares from competition, to the detriment of their customers. Without the agreements, the parties would have been under greater competitive pressure,” the statement read.

The move affected customers such as original equipment manufacturers and electronic manufacturing services providers and distributors that resell capacitors to other end-user customers. It also affected international procurement offices based in Singapore in charge of procuring and supplying capacitors to customers and affiliates located in and outside Singapore.

The fine, which is CCS’ highest one to date, was meted out considering all parties held more than two-thirds of the share of the market for the sale of AECs in Singapore, coupled with the long duration of the cartel.

According to CCS, ELNA, Rubycon and SCC were also awarded a discount further to their application for leniency under CCS’s leniency programme. The programme accords lenient treatment to companies that come forward to CCS with information on their cartel activities. Here are the fines met out for each company:

Company Financial Penalty
ELNA SG$853,227
Nichicon SG$6,987,262
Panasonic NIL
Rubycon SG$4,718,170
SCC SG$6,993,805
Total SG$19,552,464

CCS investigations also revealed that the parties involved “held regular meetings” in Singapore and saw the exchange of confidential and commercially sensitive business information.

This included customer quotations, sales volumes, production capacities, business plans and pricing strategies. Cartel activity started as far back as 1997, with senior level employees of each company attending the meetings in Singapore with “unfailing regularity”. The statement added that this was on an almost monthly basis until 2013.

“Cartels among suppliers cause serious harm to competition in the market, leaving businesses and end-consumers in a poorer bargaining position and facing less competitive prices. This is CCS’s third case involving a global cartel and Singapore being such an open market, can be impacted by such cross-border cartels,” Toh Han Li, chief executive, CCS said.

Toh added that CCS will continue to take strong enforcement action to ensure that cartels do not negatively impact Singapore markets   and its competitiveness.

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