The Commerce Department said yesterday that some Japanese companies have been dumping flat-panel display screens -- used mainly on laptop computers -- in the U.S. market.
After a six-month preliminary investigation, the department concluded that a handful of Japanese companies were engaging in unfair competition by selling some of their products below the cost of production. The department ordered the companies to pay anti-dumping duties on their imports.
The immediate effect will be minimal, since the duties imposed yesterday range from 1.46 percent of the selling prices -- levied against Toshiba -- to 4.6 percent levied against Sharp.
The duties could be sharply increased later, however.
The Commerce Department said it will announce a final decision by April 29, after further investigation.
Flat-panel display screens are used in laptop computers, medical instruments, industrial controls and commercial aircraft.
Advanced Display Manufacturers of America, a group of seven companies with total sales of less than $100 million, filed a complaint with the Commerce Department last July. The companies said that its much-larger Japanese competitors were trying to drive them out of business with predatory pricing.
The Japanese companies have denied the allegations in statements filed with the Commerce Department's International Trade Administration. And their denial is supported by some U.S. makers of laptop computers.
"While we're sympathetic to the problems of U.S. flat-panel display manufacturers, we feel their difficulties are not due to dumping," said a spokesman for Compaq Computer Co.
Dumping investigations pose a dilemma for the U.S. government. Although illegal, dumping is welcomed by U.S. manufacturers who buy the dumped goods and by consumers who pay lower prices.