DRAM makers sued (yet again) for 'fixing prices' (yet again) of chips

Stop us if you've heard this one: Samsung, Micron, and Hynix walk into a courtroom...

Updated The three semiconductor giants responsible for nearly all of the world's DRAM supply are being sued for allegedly working together to keep memory chip prices high.

A class-action complaint [PDF] filed to the US Northern California District Court late last week accuses Micron, Samsung, and Hynix of conspiring to keep the price of memory chips artificially high to pad their own bottom lines.

None of the three companies returned a request for comment on the suit.

The complaint, put forward by named plaintiffs Michele Jones, David Laietta, Kimberly York, Benjamin Murray, and Wanta Dureya on behalf of anyone in the US who purchased something containing DRAM from one of the three companies from July 1, 2016 through the February 1, 2018. It accuses the three companies of violating unfair competition and antitrust laws by illegally colluding to keep prices up.

The suit claims that, after a global decline in the price of RAM chips, the three companies began in June of 2016 to deliberately limit their output of DRAM storage chips. As a result the three companies, who are said to control around 96 per cent of the global market, each made more money at the expense of anyone who bought a computer, mobile phone, or other device that relied on the chips to hold data.


FTC slams Rambus' memory 'monopoly'


"During the Class Period, Defendants agreed to delay or slow capacity, or not to expand capacity," the suit claimed. "This facilitated Defendants’ ability to stop DRAM prices from falling and cause prices to dramatically reverse course."

What's more, the suit claims, you can actually track the bumps in DRAM prices to the aftermath of industry events where the three companies would have had a chance to sit down and plan together how they could get top dollar.

"In addition to the transparency and ease of information sharing that comes from being in such as small industry where many of Defendants’ employees likely know each other, Defendants also have overlapping business relationships with each other, which provide opportunities to exchange information and collude," the suit alleges.

The plaintiffs also note that this is not the first time these companies have been accused of price fixing.

Back in the turn of the milennium, from 1998-2002, Hynix, Samsung, and Micron were among a group of vendors who would ultimately end up paying a settlement to end complaints they conspired to rig the price of DRAM chips in order to make top dollar. ®

Updated to add

"Micron is aware of a lawsuit filed on April 27 in the Northern District of California alleging that Samsung, Hynix and Micron engaged in certain anticompetitive behavior relating to the sale of DRAM. As of today the company has not been served and does not comment on active litigation," the chip biz told The Reg in an emailed statement.

Broader topics

Other stories you might like

  • Intel demands $625m in interest from Europe on overturned antitrust fine
    Chip giant still salty

    Having successfully appealed Europe's €1.06bn ($1.2bn) antitrust fine, Intel now wants €593m ($623.5m) in interest charges.

    In January, after years of contesting the fine, the x86 chip giant finally overturned the penalty, and was told it didn't have to pay up after all. The US tech titan isn't stopping there, however, and now says it is effectively seeking damages for being screwed around by Brussels.

    According to official documents [PDF] published on Monday, Intel has gone to the EU General Court for “payment of compensation and consequential interest for the damage sustained because of the European Commissions refusal to pay Intel default interest."

    Continue reading
  • Semiconductor industry growth to slow in 2022, warns IDC
    Chip price hikes keeping sector healthy but new fabs could lead to 'overcapacity'

    The global economy may be in a tenuous situation right now, but the semiconductor industry is likely to walk away from 2022 with a "healthy" boost in revenues, according to analysts at IDC. But beware oversupply, the analyst firm warns.

    Semiconductor companies across the world are expected to grow collective revenues by 13.7 percent year-on-year to $661 billion, IDC said in research published Wednesday. Global semiconductor revenue last year was $582 billion.

    "Overall, the semiconductor industry remains on track to deliver another healthy year of growth as the super cycle that began in 2020 continues this year," said Mario Morales, IDC group vice president of semiconductors.

    Continue reading
  • Google has more reasons why it doesn't like antitrust law that affects Google
    It'll ruin Gmail, claims web ads giant

    Google has a fresh list of reasons why it opposes tech antitrust legislation making its way through Congress but, like others who've expressed discontent, the ad giant's complaints leave out mention of portions of the proposed law that address said gripes.

    The law bill in question is S.2992, the Senate version of the American Innovation and Choice Online Act (AICOA), which is closer than ever to getting votes in the House and Senate, which could see it advanced to President Biden's desk.

    AICOA prohibits tech companies above a certain size from favoring their own products and services over their competitors. It applies to businesses considered "critical trading partners," meaning the company controls access to a platform through which business users reach their customers. Google, Apple, Amazon, and Meta in one way or another seemingly fall under the scope of this US legislation. 

    Continue reading
  • Samsung and Intel bosses discuss silicon cooperation
    Details? Nope. Potential? Enormous.

    Intel CEO Pat Gelsinger and Samsung Electronics boss Lee Jae-yong met on Monday in South Korea and “discussed how to cooperate between the two companies."

    That quote comes from Samsung, which also let the world know the two leaders talked about next-generation memory chips, silicon for PCs and mobile devices, fabless chip design, the foundry business, and more.

    It is unclear if the talks addressed a particular issue, or just represented the heads of the world’s top two chipmakers getting together for a chat while Gelsinger was in town.

    Continue reading

Biting the hand that feeds IT © 1998–2022