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Antitrust watchdog to drop Amazon Japan case

Vendors no longer required to offer online retailer their best deals

TOKYO -- Japan's antitrust regulator will end its probe into Amazon Japan, following the online retailer's decision to delete a clause in contracts that required vendors to set prices at least as low as on rival e-commerce sites.

The Japan Fair Trade Commission will close the investigation this month after it confirms the removal of the so-called most-favored nation clause and checks that all employees and customers were notified of the change, it said Thursday. The watchdog did not rule on whether the online retailer had violated antitrust law.

Amazon Japan decided to delete the clause, it said Thursday. It was gone when The Nikkei checked the company's site in the afternoon.

According to the commission, the Japanese arm of U.S.-based Amazon.com introduced the disputed clause in 2012 or earlier, requiring vendors on its online marketplace to offer the same or better prices and product lineups than what they offer on rival sites. The retailer would urge vendors via email and at meetings to comply with the agreement when lower prices were discovered on competitors' sites, the commission said.

The regulator launched the probe in August on concerns that a combination of this clause and Amazon Japan's dominant market position would hinder competition in the e-commerce sector. In April, the company announced it would take voluntary measures including removing the clause from existing and future contracts, notifying all of its employees, and reporting to the commission annually on its progress for the next three years.

There is "no longer any need to punish" the company thanks to these steps, said Yasumasa Kuriya, a senior investigator at the JFTC. The commission was apparently divided on whether the company had violated antitrust laws, as it was unclear whether vendors that violated the clause had suffered any disadvantages.

(Nikkei)

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