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Japan plans periodic reviews of tech giants to protect vendors

  • April 21, 2019
  • , Nikkei Asian Review , 4:58 a.m.
  • English Press

TOKYO — The Japanese government intends to use antitrust law to require major tech players to submit to regular reviews, as part of an effort to keep them from taking advantage of the smaller companies they do business with, Nikkei has learned.

 

Currently, while the Japan Fair Trade Commission can conduct reviews of technology companies such as Amazon.com, these are sometimes hindered by such obstacles as nondisclosure agreements with third-party sellers. But Japan’s antimonopoly law lets the watchdog compel companies to cooperate, with financial penalties if they fail to comply or provide false information.

 

The government plans to use this provision to periodically examine the practices and services of big companies that operate e-commerce websites, app stores and other platforms. Likely targets include Google, Apple, Facebook and Amazon, along with domestic players such as Rakuten and Yahoo Japan.

 

The move comes amid growing concern in Japan and abroad about potential harm to consumers and the competitive environment if tech giants are allowed to grow unchecked. The European Union has used antitrust law to tighten scrutiny of these companies, and Japan is following suit.

 

Tokyo is also considering complementary legislation that would require tech companies to disclose and clearly explain their contract terms to businesses that use their services. This would help address issues such as third-party vendors on e-retail websites being forced to participate in new services or swallow additional costs if they want to continue using the site.

 

The JFTC and the industry and communications ministries will meet with experts on Wednesday to discuss the issue and draw up a draft proposal. The measures will be submitted to lawmakers for approval as early as next year’s regular session.

 

KOSUKE TAKEUCHI, Nikkei staff writer

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