Philips, Asus, Pioneer and D&M hit with e-commerce fines

EC slaps Asus Philips and others with €111m fine for online price fixing

The ruling against Philips, Asus (2357.TW), Pioneer (6773.T) and Denon & Marantz followed a 17-month investigation by the European Commisssion as part of its crackdown on online sales practices such as price restrictions based on a customer's location or nationality.

The EU says that these companies often engaged in threats or even cut off supplies to online retailers who did not adhere to these fixed or minimum prices.

Asus, Denon & Marantz, Philips and Pioneer had restricted the ability of online retailers to set lower prices for those companies' products. If online sellers attempted to offer anything but the MSRP, the companies would threaten the retailer with sanctions.

Vestager's decision to penalise a European company and others comes a week after she handed down a record 4.34 billion euro fine to Google. It engaged in illegal practices in 12 European Union countries, including France, Germany, the Netherlands and Britain, the Commission said, adding that the other companies did so in one or two countries. The EU claims that the companies were involved in a price-fixing scheme and is fining them a combined total of 111 million euros (roughly $130 million US). Contacting retailers that were offering prices below their own recommended retailer prices, and requesting increases. The electronics companies allegedly used sophisticated monitoring tools to track resale prices and swoop in quickly if they detected decreases.

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"Our decisions today show that European Union competition rules serve to protect consumers where companies stand in the way of more price competition and better choice", said Commissioner Margrethe Vestager in a statement.

All four companies saw the fine lowered between 40 and 50 percent because they cooperated with regulators. Consequently, the consumer electronics companies' actions led to higher prices for consumers in Europe.

ASUS received the biggest fine, €63.5 million, for intervening with with retailers in France and Germany in 2011 to 2014. Meanwhile, Phillips was fined for actions in France alone; Denon & Marantz in Germany and the Netherlands; and Pioneer, with the most far-spanning antitrust behaviour, fined for antitrust behaviour in 12 countries.

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