EC investigating chip makers price fixing

The European Commission is currently investigating various major players in the chip market, sources close to the investigation told news agency Reuters.

According to four deep throats, chip makers Infineon, Samsung, Hynix, Micron, Elpida, NEC Electronics, Hitachi, Toshiba, Mitsubishi Electric and Nanya fixed prices for their products.

The allegations led to various offices being raided in autumn last year. Former Siemens chip unit Infineon found its offices searched in December, as the company had to admit. The sources said they expect an official announcement to be made on Friday this week or next week Monday.

Neelie Kroes, the commissioner who currently heads the EC’s competition directorate, slapped a fine of $€1.06 billion on chip giant Intel last year May, for “abusing its dominant position on the x86 central processing unit (CPU) market.”

Her directorate also managed to whack Microsoft in the browser wars, forcing the software maker to let consumers in the EU decide if they want to use a different browser than IE. From March 2010 onwards, Windows users will be faced with a choice screen – considering IE has been garnering tons of negative publicity since China hacked the Google Mail accounts of various dissidents using IE, a ton of not-so tech savvy users will opt for either Firefox or Opera.

In other news, the EC is also checking price-fixing between Siemens and Swedish company ABB. The two companies apparently had a talk under four eyes and agreed on prices for Flexible Alternating Current Transmission Systems (FACTS). FACTS are used to increase the amount of power that can be sent over electric transmission networks.