TOKYO -- With a series of scandals revealing well-known manufacturers falsifying the quality of their products, the Japanese government is moving to increase the fines for such offenses.
The Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry is working on a draft revision of the Industrial Standards Law, intending to submit it during the ordinary Diet session in January.
A key feature of the revision will be to increase the maximum penalty for a serious breach of the law to 100 million yen ($882,900). At present, the most severe punishment is 1 million yen in fines or a one-year jail term.
Under the law, products that pass quality assessments by publicly certified organizations are allowed to display the Japan Industrial Standards mark. The JIS symbol has been regarded as a de facto seal of approval by the government and has commanded strong trust as a guide for customers to select high-quality offerings.
But it has come to light in recent months that such esteemed manufacturers as Kobe Steel, Mitsubishi Materials and Toray Industries have been falsifying quality inspection data and shipping products that do not meet the standards specified in contracts with clients.
In the case of Kobe Steel, it has been reported that the cheating began more than 10 years ago. The public-certified quality inspection organizations normally check production facilities and quality control systems at companies once every three years to ensure compliance with JIS requirements. But those checks clearly failed to uncover falsifications at Kobe Steel and others.
"It would be not easy to see through cheating if the company modifies the data or disposes of the original documents," said Yoshinori Iizuka, a quality control expert and professor emeritus at the University of Tokyo.
The draft revision will add companies' internal control systems, including whether multiple people conduct quality checks and the quality control section operates without interference, as a criterion for passing the JIS assessment.
While the government has so far focused on putting more pressure on companies to prevent cheating, some point out the need to review and strengthen the assessment regime at the certified inspection organizations to fully address the problem.