No wonder big LCD screens cost so much: multiple execs have confessed to a "global LCD-price-fixing conspiracy" and now face the prospect of watching crappy CRT TVs in prison.
If you've ever agonised over the price of a flash new LCD television or monitor, the news that a massive price-fixing scheme for LCD panels has been dismantled will probably come as something of a mixed blessing.
While the dismantling of the nefarious scheme might result in better prices for anyone lusting after a few inches of extra LCD action, that's not much compensation if you feel like you've already overpaid.
Last week, the US Department of Justice announced that four executives from LG Display and Chungwa Picture Tubes had agreed to plead guilty to charges of price-fixing, and all are expected to serve jail time, ranging between six and nine months, as well as paying fines between $US25,000 and $US50,000. The executives had agreed to charge fixed prices for LCD panels, eliminating any chances of their buyers scoring better prices by setting competitors against each other.
The price-fixing conspiracy apparently occurred between September 21, 2001 (when most of the globe was worrying about recent terrorist attacks) through until June 1, 2006 (a date of no particular significance, let's face it). That year, the global market for TFT-LCD panels was estimated to be worth $US70 million, the DOJ said.
The jail sentences are part of an ongoing investigation that has already claimed several corporate scalps and racked up some massive fines. LG has already been slapped with a $US400 million fine, Sharp is up for a $US120 million penalty for similar behaviour, and Chungwa is staring down a $US65 million demand from Uncle Sam. While the prosecutions took place in the US, the products involved have shipped worldwide, and pricing across the globe is certain to have been affected.
Such shenanigans don't seem to have dampened demand for LCD technology. According to the Consumer Electronics Association, even after making allowances for the whole-of-planet economic meltdown, LCD screens will experience "double digit unit and revenue growth worldwide".