European Commission Launches Probe of European Optical Drive Makers, Suspects Worldwide Cartel

You have to hand it to the European Commission--those folks are not shy about going after tech companies with guns blazing if they believe there have been antitrust violations. The latest alleged offense is a bit of a doozy, as it pertains to a baker’s dozen optical drive companies selling their wares in Europe; the EC believes they may have colluded in a worldwide cartel.

No companies have been fingered by name, but an EC press release indicates that there were two major OEMs organizing a bid rigging endeavor that has lasted five years. Bid rigging is “one of the most serious breaches of EU antitrust rules”, and the EC is concerned that it affected customers who bought drives during this period.

Optical disk drive

Thus far, the EC has simply issued a Statement of Objections to the companies involved, which in turn have the opportunity to reply in writing and also request an oral hearing in front of the Commission. However, if the EC finds that the companies are indeed guilty of bid rigging, the penalty could be a fine of up to 10% of a given company’s “annual worldwide turnover”.

This is more bad news for the optical drive industry, which is already looking nervously at the next few years, when ODDs will likely become mostly obsolete.