Nintendo Price-Fixing Case Settled

To get coupons Nintendo owners who purchased their systems between June 1, 1988, and Dec. 1, 1990, will receive the $5 coupon automatically if they returned the warranty registration card. Others may call 1-800-255-3700 and supply the game's serial number.

WASHINGTON - Redmond-based Nintendo of America will give $5 coupons to owners of its popular home video games to settle price-fixing allegations under an agreement with federal and state authorities announced yesterday.

"Nintendo was not satisfied" with its 80 percent share of the market and coerced some of the nation's biggest retailers into keeping the price of its basic video-game system at $99.99, said New York Attorney General Robert Abrams.

He said Nintendo threatened to either slow or cut off supplies to retailers who lowered the price of the game as little as 6 cents.

"They wanted to extract every last ounce of profit," he said.

Nintendo of America, the U.S. division of a Japanese electronics giant, denied the price-fixing allegations. An official said the company agreed to the settlement to "get the matter behind us."

Nintendo owners can receive $5 coupons to be used toward the purchase of Nintendo game cartridges. Nintendo has agreed to issue redemption certificates worth $25 million.

Washington state Attorney General Ken Eikenberry said as many as 167,400 state residents may be eligible for the certificates.

In addition, Nintendo has agreed to pay $1.75 million to the participating states (New York and Maryland) to handle the costs of administration of the settlement and $3 million for use by the states in enforcing state antitrust laws.

Nintendo is the biggest marketer of home video games in the United States and its system is one of the country's best-selling toys. The company has projected 1990 sales of more than $4 billion.

The price-fixing investigation was conducted jointly by the Federal Trade Commission and the attorneys general of New York and Maryland. Abrams said it was the first time in more than 10 years that federal authorities had participated in such a case.

State attorneys general have previously settled cases involving Japanese electronics giants Panasonic and Mitsubishi and Japanese camera manufacturer Minolta.

Abrams said the Nintendo settlement would "send out the most powerful message across this country that we will not tolerate this kind of pernicious practice." That message, he said, "is not only reaching the board rooms in America, but the board rooms in Japan and in all other countries that do business in America."

Neither the FTC nor the attorneys general would name any of the retailers involved in the alleged price-fixing scheme, saying all were not willing participants.