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Japan trade watchdog to fine 3 utilities record $733 million for forming cartel

In this 2019 file photo, the sign for the Japan Fair Trade Commission and Public Prosecutors Office is seen in Tokyo's Chiyoda Ward. (Mainichi/Kazuo Motohashi)

TOKYO -- The Japan Fair Trade Commission on Dec. 1 informed three Japanese utilities in central, western and southwestern Japan of planned disciplinary action including fines totaling over 100 billion yen (about $733 million) on the grounds that the firms violated the Antimonopoly Act by forming a cartel restricting access to each other's customers.

    The fair-trade watchdog accuses Chubu Electric Power Co. in Nagoya, The Chugoku Electric Power Co. in Hiroshima and Kyushu Electric Power Co. in Fukuoka of unfairly restricting transactions.

    If levied, the total amount of the fine is expected to be the highest ever issued by the commission.

    Also named by the watchdog were Chubu Electric Power Miraiz Co. based in Nagoya, and Kyuden Mirai Energy Corp., which is part of the Kyushu Electric group. Between 2000 and 2016, the government gradually liberalized electricity sales to give consumers more price and service choices. The fair trade commission sees the three utilities' move to form a cartel as a grave violation shaking the foundations of the liberalization policies.

    The commission plans to hear the view of the three utilities and levy the fines by the end of the fiscal year in March 2023, and issue a cease and desist order.

    (Japanese original by Makoto Kakizaki, Tokyo City News Department, and Taiki Asakawa, Business News Department)

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