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Friday, 28 April, 2000, 18:43 GMT 19:43 UK
Nintendo accused of cartel swindle
nintendo
The EU says European prices for Nintendo are too high
Japanese computer giant Nintendo and its European distributors have been accused of creating a retail cartel to swindle games fans.

The European Commission says the world's second largest maker of computer consoles and games, such as Super Mario and Pokemon, is fixing markets to keep prices artificially high.

Monti
Commissioner Mario Monti: European families must not be swindled

"European families spend millions every year on video games," said the commissioner in charge of competition, Mario Monti.

"We want to make sure that they are not being swindled."

Investigation

Seven European distributors of Nintendo games stand accused of dividing up the EU single market between them.


The investigation showed price differences were frequent and large

Commissioner Mario Monti

The Commission said they had "collaborated intensively" in stamping out parallel trade - exporting unofficially from one country to another - with sanctions imposed on firms allowing such trade.

The EU executive, which started looking closely at Nintendo's distribution methods as far back as 1995, also said Nintendo made it more difficult for retailers to compete on price.

Prices of some products could differ by as much as 100% from one country to another, it said.

Mr Monti said the investigation showed price differences were frequent and large.

Nintendo has sold 55 million Game Boy consoles worldwide, with a further 235 million games, making it the most popular brand of its kind in the world.

Deadline

Nintendo and the other companies concerned have two months to reply to the Commission.

If they are found guilty of price-fixing, they could face large fines as high as 10% of the company's world annual turnover, and considerable anger from European consumers, who feel they have been hoodwinked into paying inflated prices.

N64
Games and computer prices differ from country to country

The Commission's announcement is further evidence of its intention to take on major international companies on behalf of the European consumer.

The policy is aimed at creating a transparent single market right across the European Union and lower prices in shops.

It may also assist the Commission in improving its battered image, following a series of corruption scandals.

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See also:

04 Mar 00 | Asia-Pacific
PlayStation fever sweeps Japan
28 Feb 00 | Business
Sega warns of losses
27 Oct 99 | The Company File
Microsoft 'to enter game console war'
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