By Kim Young-gyo and Lee Minji
HONG KONG/SEOUL, Jan. 4 (Yonhap) -- South Korea's Samsung Display Co. and LG Display Co. together were fined a total of US$35 million by the Chinese government over price-rigging of panels, authorities said Friday.
China's National Development and Reform Commission said it has fined Samsung 101 million yuan (US$16.2 million) and LG 118 million yuan, for fixing prices of liquid crystal display (LCD) panels that were supplied to the Chinese TV makers between 2001 and 2006.
The two South Korean firms along with four Taiwanese firms -- Chi Mei Optoelectronics Corp., AU Optronics Corp., Chunghwa Picture Tubes Ltd. and HannStar Display Corp. -- were penalized a total of 353 million yuan, according to the Chinese authorities.
It is the first time for any foreign firms to be punished for anti-trust issues in China.
From the total amount of fines, 172 million yuan was paid to nine TV makers such as Konka Group Co., Changhong Electric Co., Skyworth Group Co. and TCL Corp., as a refund, they added.
"From 2001 to 2006, six companies involved held a total of 53 rounds of 'Crystal Conferences,' claiming that they exchange information on the global LCD panel market," said an official of the commission.
"Those involved turned out to have negotiated prices or manipulated prices, hampering the legitimate rights and interests of other parties and consumers," the official said.
The six companies now have committed to strictly abide by the Chinese laws, engage in a fair competition and extend an unpaid warranty service period for China's domestic TV makers, according to the commission.
LG Display stressed its efforts to block price-rigging.
"To prevent a recurrence of such problems, LG Display has been mending policies and executing them, and remains committed to operating with compliance and transparency," a company spokesman said by phone.
A Samsung Display spokesman declined to comment.
The fine is the latest in allegations that global display makers colluded to fix prices of LCD panels.
Last year, LG Display paid $380 million to resolve a U.S. consumer class action over alleged price-fixing in the LCD market, while denying all allegations.
Samsung Electronics Co., which was also accused of taking part in the price-fixing scheme, settled the case by agreeing to pay $240 million in 2011.
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