Report: Chinese government investigating possible NAND price fixing

Building a machine in 2017 was painful. Here at the end of the year, we're looking at average per-gigabyte SSD prices that are the same or even higher than they were a year ago. It's a frustrating situation. According to the state-run China Daily newspaper, that nation's National Development and Reform Commission is getting fed up with NAND chip prices as well. The paper quotes an official with the NDRC who says that the commission "will pay more attention to future problems that may be caused by 'price fixing'" in the memory market.

Samsung UFS SSDs.

The newspaper goes on to specifically note Samsung as a corporation-of-interest in the matter. The commision reportedly contacted Samsung but hasn't taken any action yet. The NDRC says it was alerted to the situation based on the rapid increase in flash memory prices over the last 18 months. The agency also says that it's too early to predict what sort of actions would be taken, but if anyone is found engaging in price-fixing, it could use penalties issued by other nations as a reference for its own measures.

Don't get too excited yet, gerbils, because the investigation isn't a formal accusation. As China Daily points out, smartphone manufacturers have put insanely-high demand on the memory market. It's possible that the high prices are simply the result of basic supply-and-demand economics at work. However, this wouldn't be the first time that memory manufacturers have colluded on pricing. Back in the early 2000s all of the largest memory manufacturers—Hynix, Infineon, Micron, Samsung, and Elpida—were found to be guilty of price-fixing collusion and faced heavy fines from the US government.

For our part, we've had to scale back our storage recommendations in our system guides due to the high prices of SSDs. A lot of folks in a lot of places (including right here in our comments) have been grumbling about the continued presence of painfully-slow spinning rust in low-end machines, too. Whatever the actual cause for the elevated component prices, here's hoping that 2018 provides relief.

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