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Thirty-four US states are on Friday set to file suit against Micron Technology, Infineon Technologies and other makers of computer memory chips in response to allegations of price-fixing in the market for dynamic random access memory, or D-Ram.
The complaint, revealed by California’s state attorney-general on Thursday, is similar to a lawsuit filed by Eliot Spitzer, New York attorney-general, also on Thursday, in a Manhattan court. A federal investigation into price-fixing earlier in the year had led to more than $730m in fines.
Bill Lockyer, the California state attorney-general, said Micron, Infineon, Hynix Semiconductor and a handful of other chipmakers allegedly engaged in a four-year conspiracy to fix prices and artificially constrict supply of D-Ram chips to computer makers such as Dell, Apple and Hewlett-Packard between 1998 and 2002.
Mr Spitzer’s lawsuit also names South Korea’s Samsung Electronics.
Mr Lockyer said the damages suffered by consumers in the state and government offices alone “could total in the tens of millions of dollars”. He said Friday’s complaint would ask the court to order the chipmakers to pay three times that amount in damages.
“The defendants in this case conspired to rig the US market for this essential computer product, working together to keep prices artificially high,” Mr Lockyer said.
Over the past several years, D-Ram has emerged as a key component in modern computers, video game consoles and workstations.
Shares in Micron, which received immunity in the federal case in return for co-operating with prosecutors, fell more than 3 per cent on Thursday to close at $14.36. American Depositary Receipts of Infineon, which is based in Germany, fell 2.9 per cent to $10.75.
Micron played down news of the lawsuits, saying they were part of an ongoing legal process.
“We’ve been involved in discussions with the state attorneys-general for a lengthy period of time,” it said.
“As we understand it, they wanted to get these cases on file while we continue to discuss the potential for a solution.”
Samsung shares were down 2 per cent at Won588,000 on Friday morning, mainly due to disappointing second-quarter results.