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Tuesday, 31 July, 2001, 17:01 GMT 18:01 UK
Music giants face price-fix charge
Luciano Pavarotti (left) Jose Carreras and Placido Domingo pose at the World Cup
The tenors are a World Cup fixture
AOL Time Warner and Vivendi Universal have been charged by the US Federal Trade Commission with conspiring to fix prices of audio and video recordings of concerts by the Three Tenors.

AOL has reached a settlement with the FTC, while the case against Vivendi will be the subject of a hearing, the US regulator said.

Ahead of the Three Tenors' 1998 concert to coincide with the World Cup in Paris, the two companies formed a joint venture to market recordings of the event, according to the FTC.

The joint venture then agreed not to advertise or discount recordings of previous performances by the three opera singers, the FTC said.

"Naked price fixing agreements such as this are bad for consumers," said Joseph Simons, director of the FTC's bureau of competition.

Not acceptable

The agreement was reached by a joint venture between Warner Communications and Vivendi Universal's predecessor, PolyGram.

The existence of a joint venture did not make the agreement acceptable, said Mr Simons.

The three tenors - opera singers Luciano Pavarotti, Jose Carreras and Placido Domingo - had banded together every four years since 1990 for concerts at the site of the World Cup.

As the 10 July 1998 concert date approached "both companies became concerned that the new products would be neither as original nor commercially appealing as products already available to consumers", the FTC said.

The settlement with AOL Time Warner "will bar future agreements to fix prices or restrict advertising", the FTC said.

Vivendi faces an administrative trial, it added.

See also:

20 Jul 01 | Business
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12 Jun 01 | Business
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23 Jul 01 | Business
Online music sales set to soar
19 Jul 01 | New Media
Napster can go back online
31 Jul 01 | Business
Freeserve attacks AOL tax status
23 Jul 01 | Business
Vivendi profits surge 53%
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