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BRUSSELS (Reuters) - The European Commission said on Monday it had fined three Japanese makers of rechargeable lithium-ion batteries 166 million euros ($176.2 million) for their involvement in a price-fixing cartel from 2004 to 2007.
The Commission said that the companies, along with Korea's Samsung SDI, had agreed on temporary price increases and exchanged commercially sensitive information, such as forecasts or plans concerning bids for manufacturers of phones, laptops or power tools.
Their actions were designed to avoid aggressive market competition.
Sony received a fine of 29.8 million euros, Panasonic of 38.9 million euros and Sanyo [MATEIH.UL] 97.1 million euros. Samsung SDI escaped a fine because it revealed the existence of the cartel to the Commission.
The Commission said that all the companies had acknowledged their involvement in the cartel and had agreed to settle the case.
"Today's decision sanctions four rechargeable battery producers whose collusion affected the prices of a number of goods sold to European consumers," European competition commissioner Margrethe Vestager said in a statement.
"It also sends an important signal to companies: if European consumers are affected by a cartel, the Commission will investigate it even if the anticompetitive contacts took place outside Europe."
Rechargeable lithium-ion batteries are the most common type of rechargeable batteries used in laptops and power tools and smaller devices such as smartphones and tablets.
Reporting By Philip Blenkinsop, editing by Julia Fioretti