Lawsuit alleges Samsung, Micron, and Hynix colluded to drive up DRAM prices

A class-action lawsuit (PDF) filed in California alleges that Samsung, Micron, and Hynix colluded to raise the price of memory products by artificially restricting the supply of DRAM chips used in PCs and mobile products.

"What we’ve uncovered in the DRAM market is a classic antitrust, price-fixing scheme in which a small number of kingpin corporations hold the lion’s share of the market," said Steve Berman, managing partner of Hagens Berman, the law firm representing the plaintiffs. "Instead of playing by the rules, Samsung, Micron and Hynix chose to put consumers in a chokehold, wringing the market for more profit."

Samsung, Micron, and Hynix are the three largest memory chip makers in the world—it's estimated the trio held a 96 percent share of the DRAM market as recently as the middle of last year. According to the lawsuit, the companies agreed in 2016 to limit the supply of DRAM in an effort to raise prices. This caused "DRAM prices to skyrocket upward," according to the lawsuit.

"This isn’t the first time we’ve caught the DRAM industry in a scheme to squeeze more money out of consumers," Berman added. "We achieved a $300 million settlement for DRAM purchasers in a similar case, and we intend to prevail for consumers again."

Hagens Berman say the alleged price fixing scheme likely affected the cost of all modern computing devices sold from July 1, 2016 to February 1, 2018, including laptops and desktops sold by Acer, Apple, Asus, Dell, Lenovo, HP, Samsung, and many others. The same goes for smartphones.

We don't know if there was any foul play that took place in the time period specified in the lawsuit, though prices for DRAM products have gone up a large amount. In some cases, DDR4 memory kits are still selling for twice as much (or more) than they were a 18-24 months ago.

In the previous settlement that Hagens Berman refers to, none of the companies named admitted to any wrongdoing. However, Samsung did plead guilty to price fixing charges in 2005 that were brought on by the US Department of Justice. So did Hynix and Infineon Technologies.

"Three companies and five individuals have been charged and fines totaling more that $646 million have resulted from the Department's ongoing antitrust investigation into price fixing in the DRAM industry," the DoJ said at the time.

Hagens Berman has a form you can fill out to follow this case and join the lawsuit, if you purchased a DRAM product during the aforementioned dates.