Drop in TV sales prompt Sony, Samsung to ask US retailers to curb discounts

A Samsung HD3D TV from last year

TOKYO — Sony and Samsung Electronics are asking U.S. retailers to maintain minimum prices for TVs to boost profitability as global demand declines.

Sony’s policy, effective last month, covers about 120 models of TVs, camcorders, audio players and tablet computers, though excludes Vaio computers, Keizo Masuda, a spokesman for the company, said Wednesday.

Samsung’s program, in place since early this year, will cover some new TV models, said Nam Ki Yung, a Seoul-based spokesman.

The move comes after TV shipments last year declined for the since 2004, leading to a drop in prices and record losses at Japanese manufacturers. Sony, the world’s third-biggest TV maker, has forecast a ninth consecutive annual loss from selling TVs while industry leader Samsung is bringing out new models and technology to charge consumers more.

Earlier this month, Tokyo-based Sony predicted its TV sales will decline 11 percent to 17.5 million units and will lead to a roughly $1 billion loss in the year ending in March.

Sony’s current policy, similar to one introduced in 2008 for digital cameras, is intended to boost retailer support for its brand, Masuda said. The proposals don’t violate U.S. law, he said.

The Wall Street Journal first reported the companies’ moves earlier Wednesday.

LG Electronics Inc., the world’s second-largest TV maker, isn’t setting prices and doesn’t plan to do so, Ken Hong, a Seoul-based spokesman for the company, said in an email Wednesday.

Other manufacturers have adopted similar policies in industries including consumer electronics and apparel, Samsung said in the statement. Nam of Samsung said the company didn’t collude with others in setting the policy.

Last year, global TV shipments fell for the first time since 2004, according to DisplaySearch, part of NPD Group. Flat-screen TV shipments in the United States may fall for the first time this year, to 37.1 million units from 39.1 million the year before, according to IHS Inc.’s iSuppli.