It’s a case that potentially effects everyone who uses any electronic device with an LCD display — and that’s just about all of us.

Consumer electronics giants LG and Sharp along with LCD panel maker Chunghwa have agreed to plead guilty to charges of price fixing filed recently by the U.S. Department of Justice. The companies have agreed to pay a total of (US)$585 million in fines.

Major computer and cell phone makers including Apple, Dell and Motorola are listed among the companies which were victims of price fixing.

The situation started back around the turn of the millennium, when LCD prices were plummeting as more and more new manufacturing capacity came in line and demand from phone and computer manufacturers failed to keep pace with the growing supply. In fact, some LCD makers were selling their products below cost just to keep cash coming in.

U.S. investigators charge that, in response to the glut, several companies banded together — at the instigation of LG — to set prices at levels where they could make a profit. Price fixing activities apparently continued from April, 2001, through the end of 2006.

Thus far, other LCD panel makers and the companies named as victims in the price fixing plot have declined comment.

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