Tag: Panasonic

EU fines three lithium-ion battery makers

lemon batteryThe European Commission has fined three Japanese makers of rechargeable lithium-ion batteries $176.2 million for their involvement in a price-fixing cartel from 2004 to 2007.

The Commission said that Sony, Panasonic, Samsung and Sanyo 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.

Sony received a fine of 29.8 million euros, Panasonic of 38.9 million euros and Sanyo 97.1 million euros. Samsung grassed the cartel up to the Commission.

The Commission said that all the companies had acknowledged their involvement in the cartel and had agreed to settle the case.

European competition commissioner Margrethe Vestager said the fines sent an important signal to companies.

“If European consumers are affected by a cartel, the Commission will investigate it even if the anti-competitive contacts took place outside Europe,” she said.


Samsung and Panasonic involved in Napalling scandal

MalaysiaSamsung and Panasonic have launched investigations into allegations of abuse made by their Nepalese workers in Malaysia after a Guardian investigation raised multiple concerns about their treatment.

The pair said that they had been deceived about pay, had their passports confiscated and had been told that they must pay large fines if they wanted to return to Nepal before the end of their contract.

They were forced to work for up to 14 hours on their feet without adequate rest, and with restricted toilet breaks. They also had to pay recruitment fees of up to £1,000 to secure their jobs.

The Guardian spoke to 30 Nepalese migrants making products for Samsung and Panasonic. Some of those working for Samsung are employed directly by the company, but the majority are hired through a labour supply company. The workers assembling or making parts for Panasonic are employed by subcontracting companies.

Both Panasonic and Samsung forbid their suppliers from confiscating passports or charging migrant workers recruitment fees. Yet all the men interviewed by the Guardian claimed they paid up to more than $1,100 to recruitment agents in Nepal to secure their jobs in Malaysia. They all also claimed that their passports were confiscated on arrival in the country.  All this is illegal under Malaysian employment law.

Without their passports, the workers said they couldn’t freely leave their jobs and return home without paying fines equivalent to three or four months’ basic salary.

Both Samsung and Panasonic have said they are opening investigations into the conduct of their suppliers following the claims.

A spokesperson from Samsung said: “As a committed member of the Electronics Industry Citizenship Coalition (EICC), we comply fully with the EICC’s Code of Conduct and have found no evidence of violations in the hiring process of migrant workers hired directly by our manufacturing facility in Malaysia. Once there is any complaint, we take swift actions to investigate.

“We are currently conducting on-site investigations of labour supply companies we work with in Malaysia and the migrant employees hired by these companies. If any violations are uncovered, we will make immediate corrective actions and moving forward we will suspend our business with companies that are found to be in violation.”

In an emailed statement, Panasonic said, “Panasonic will conduct a full investigation into the claims made by the Guardian. We are taking these allegations very seriously and if, in fact, we discover that one of our suppliers has violated such laws or regulations, we will ensure and require them to take necessary corrective action immediately.

“We expect all of our suppliers to strictly comply with our Corporate Social Responsibility policy and declaration. These expectations are outlined in Panasonic’s contracted terms and conditions with each supplier. We do not tolerate breaches of these terms.”

The workers interviewed by the Guardian also complained about conditions inside the factories.

“The work is extremely difficult,” said one worker at a Samsung electronics plant making microwave ovens. “You get only 45 minutes in a 12-hour shift to eat, and seven minutes every two hours to drink water.”

Panasonic packs in LCD panels

panasonicPanasonic has given up making LCD panels for televisions because the price competition.

The pullout from TV LCD manufacturing follows the company’s withdrawal from plasma TV production three years ago.

Panasonic has been making liquid crystal display panels for TVs at its Himeji factory in western Japan since 2010. Company executives are now planning to end production of the parts by September.

It  says it will continue to manufacture LCD panels at the plant for products other than televisions, such as medical equipment and cars.

But it says cuts in output will lead to transfer of hundreds of workers to other factories or offices, out of about 1,000 currently employed at the plant.

However it says ir will keep making Panasonic-brand televisions, using panels supplied by other manufacturers.
The move leaves Sharp and its Taiwanese parent firm Hon Hai as the only producer in the land of the Rising Sun.
Panasonic said that its executives are trying to streamline operations to focus more on profit, rather than scale of sales.

Samsung, others shell out money

old-school-tvCathode ray tubes (CRTs) are over 100 years old but it seems they still have the ability to stir the hearts and minds of people.

That much is clear after five of the biggest display companies in the world agreed to pay over half a billion dollars to settle a US class action.

Samsung, Philips, Panasonic, Hitachi and Toshiba all agreed to pay a total of $528 million.

The companies had conspired to price fix CRTs in the marketplace. Four years ago, antitrust authorities looked into the price fixing allegations.

Samsung put its hands up in the air then and pleaded guilty to the charges.

Samsung’s share of the bill amounts to $225 million, which will be doled out to people in the USA who joined the class action.

Firefox TVs go on sale in Europe

old-school-tvSmart TVs powered by Firefox OS have gone on sale in Europe.

The operating system is being seen under the bonnet of six models of Panasonic Viera TV the CR850, CR730, CX800, CX750, CX700 and CX680. This is almost all of Panasonic’s new TVs, and include 4K panels as well.

The flagship CR850 (curved) costs £3,500 and and CX800 (flat) will set you back £3,200. The cheapest Firefox telly is £700 for a 40-inch CX680, which is not exactly cheap.

Early reviews suggest that Panasonic’s new 4K TVs are rather nice especially the top-end models with 10-bit colour – which Panasonic calls “4K Studio Master”.

The Firefox OS for TVs will be much like any other smart TV platform. Every app is written in HTML5, just like the Firefox phones. The new Panasonic TVs ship with a decent number of Firefox OS apps, including a Netflix app that supports 4K streaming. There is an “apps market” if you want to download some more.

Everything can be pinned to the home screen which makes it easy to grab with a remote after you have set everything up.

Still the Firefox OS was supposed to be a smartphone OS, but in early 2014 Mozilla announced it would also be coming to some other platforms, such as TVs. So far Mozilla hasn’t yet announced any other smart TV partners.

SD card price fixing case back from the dead

A US appeals court has revived an antitrust lawsuit against Panasonic, SanDisk and Toshiba for  conspiring to fix prices for SD cards.

The case was thrown out after a judge said that the plaintiffs had waited too long to sue the defendants, who between them controlled 70 percent of the market.

Now the 9th US Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco said Judge Jeffrey White in San Francisco made a mistake when he threw out the case.

Circuit Judge Richard Paez said the alleged violations were “continuing” each time the defendants sold new SD cards, and because it would have been “speculative” that there was any harm before those sales were made.

“Plaintiffs should not be penalised for failing to foresee earlier that they would enter the market for SD cards and would therefore be harmed by defendants’ conduct,” Paez wrote for a three-judge 9th Circuit panel.

The alleged violations stemmed from a 2006 licensing agreement that let Panasonic, Samsung and Toshiba  set a “fair market price” for SD cards, and imposed royalties on cards sold by other manufacturers.

But the lawsuit was not filed in March 2011, but was brought on behalf of purchasers of SD cards in the prior four years. It sought a halt to the alleged price-fixing, as well as damages.

Now the case will be returned to Judge White and can go ahead. 

All Souls Day marks the death of plasma

Panasonic chose the day of the dead to announce the death of its plasma production.

Unlike other TV outfits, Panasonic has been doing rather well lately thanks to a rigorous regime of restructuring and cold baths.

It had been expected that plasma production was for the chop. While the technology is still good, it needs another wave of investment and most of the future appears to be in other technology. It was also completely eclipsed by LCD.

According to Panasonic public financial statements, the company has lost more than $15 billion in the plasma TV business over the past two years.

Plasma TVs accounted for 40 percent of flat panel sales in 2010. In 2013, they are expected to account for just 2.5 percent.

Panasonic told investors today that its plasma TV business would be over by the end of March 2014 and it will be switching off plasma production lines starting from next month.

According to MarketWatch, Panasonic is in talks to sell one of its three plasma display factory buildings in western Japan with the other two remaining facilities also earmarked for a possible sale. 

HP sues optical drive makers

The maker of expensive printer ink, HP has sued seven optical disk drive makers, claiming they conspired to inflate disk drive prices for six years.

Toshiba, Samsung, Sony, Panasonic, NEC, TEAC and Quanta Storage are all in the dock.

According to Computerworld, HP said it takes “price-fixing very seriously and intends to pursue its rights aggressively in this and in other price-fixing litigation”.

The lawsuit claims the conspiracy to drive up prices took place from January. 1, 2004 until  January 1, 2010, when “almost all forms of home entertainment and data storage were on optical discs”.

At the time, the defendants and their co-conspirators controlled more than 90 percent of the ODD market, Meg’s company alleged.

HP said that the defendants control patent pools that effectively deter entry into the ODD market by jacking up the licensing costs.

HP named the 3C DVD Patent Group, which covers patents related to the Blu-ray format, and several patent pools related to CD technology. 

Sony is still up the Swannee

Sony said that any figures which show it making a profit for the first time in two years should not really be seen as a comeback.

The outfit said that its electronics division faces hard times ahead and only had its nadgers pulled out of the fire by a very weak yen.

Sony is facing pressure from activist shareholder Daniel Loeb’s proposal to split the company in two.

Loeb wants Sony to spin off as much as a fifth of its money into an entertainment arm which will take care of all the movies, TV and music the business owns.

According to Reuters, he thinks this will make the outfit more transparent and accountable.

Sony’s financial announcement will give some weight to his demands.

Sony logged an operating profit of $369.68 million in the April-June quarter.

Its Xperia smartphones have sold well and the company lowered its yen exchange rate on so-called assumptions which will boost its earnings from sales overseas while cutting costs.

Sony said that consumer electronics were really in trouble and it had cut full-year sales targets for products from PCs to TVs to video cameras.

Chief financial officer Masaru Kato said in a statement that Sony made alright  first quarter results but he is pessimistic about the future.

The company has been restructuring like a mad thing. The TV business showed the greatest progress from streamlining with an operating profit for the quarter. That is the first time it has made money in three years.

Sony said it expected its game division to fall into the red this fiscal year, because it would have to pay development costs related to its new PlayStation 4 console. 

Sony and Panasonic plan next optical disk standard

While home users can’t really find a use for optical disks, it appears that Sony and Panasonic have not given up on the technology.

The pair have signed a basic agreement with the objective of jointly developing a next-generation standard for professional-use optical disks, with the objective of expanding their archive business for long-term digital data storage.

Both companies aim to improve their development efficiency based on the technologies held by each respective company, and will target the development of an optical disk with recording capacity of at least 300GB by the end of 2015.

Sony and Panasonic said they will talk about specifications and other items relating to the development of this new standard.

While they are no longer used in PCs, optical disks have uses in long term storage as they can be protected against the environment, such as with dust-resistance and water-resistance, and can also withstand changes in temperature and humidity when stored.

They also allow inter-generational compatibility between different formats, ensuring that data can continue to be read even as formats evolve.

Both companies have previously developed products based on Blu-ray but both Sony and Panasonic say that new optical disks will need to accommodate much larger volumes of storage in years to come, given the expected future growth in the archive market.