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Casio Nobbled Fined $5.6M For Fixing Price Of Musical Instruments

Casio the watch and musical instruments maker has been hit with a $5.6M fine after being caught trying to price fix the sales price of their digital pianos and keyboards.

After an extensive investigation the UK Competition and Markets Authority found that between 2013 and 2018 the company used software that monitored online prices in real time in order to force retailers into complying with its policy of eliminating discounts, the Competition and Markets Authority said.

Casio products are sold by JB Hi Fi and at this stage it’s not known whether the Company who also sells through the specialist musical instrument channel has used the same software in Australia in the past.

The Japanese company, a division of Casio Computer Company, also encouraged retailers to inform on others who were discounting against Casio’s strategy of keeping prices up.

The regulator said Casio’s behaviour “meant that individual retailers had less incentive to discount for fear of being caught and potentially sanctioned”.

The fine is the CMA’s largest for a case of resale price maintenance, the practice of preventing customers from shopping around for better deals.

Last year the UK regulator fined Philips, Pioneer, Asus and Denon in a crackdown on consumer electronics Companies.

Casio, whose products range from sub-£40 beginners’ keyboards to digital grand pianos costing thousands of dollars, admitted to breaking the law in July and offered to settle, resulting in a 20 per cent discount on its fine.

“After a year of uncertainty while the investigation was conducted, combined with the disruption many companies operating in the UK are experiencing due to ongoing Brexit negotiations, it is in the best interest of our employees, suppliers, shareholders, distributors and customers to agree settlement and return our focus to daily business,” said Tim Gould, deputy managing director at

Casio.

The Japanese Company said that they have now changed its practices since the investigation and now “fully applies with applicable laws”.

“The CMA’s decision reflects a trend of increased enforcement against brand owners trying to control market pricing of their products, notably in online sales,” said Ian Giles, antitrust and competition partner at Norton Rose Fulbright.

“The level of penalty will send a strong message to businesses.”

Ann Pope, CMA’s senior director for antitrust enforcement, said:

“A digital piano or keyboard can be a significant purchase, and customers should be able to shop around for a good price. Casio’s illegal action — telling retailers not to offer their musical instruments at discounted prices — made it harder for customers to shop around for a better price and meant they risked paying over the odds.”

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