As a result of recent amendments to the Anti-monopoly Act, the Japan Fair Trade Commission (JFTC) will soon have the power to accept voluntary commitments from companies. The changes will formally give the JFTC greater flexibility to deal with suspected infringement cases and align its powers with those of other competition authorities. However, in practice, they could have significant implications for the way in which the JFTC deals with both infringement and merger control cases.
The Japan Fair Trade Commission (JFTC) has been noticeably vocal regarding its intention to keep a close eye on e-commerce. It has already targeted a handful of tech giants and its longstanding image of being a mature but subdued authority does not appear to apply to its role in the digital economy. If anything, the JFTC seems to be striving to be the frontrunner in this regard, ahead of other Asian authorities.
Abuse of a superior bargaining position is a unique category of anti-competitive conduct under the Anti-monopoly Act, and the Japan Fair Trade Commission (JFTC) is increasingly stepping up its enforcement of this type of infringement. As the JFTC has also recently extended its investigation reach to include foreign companies, foreign companies which operate in Japan should remain aware of its enforcement in this regard.
In recent years, there has been a selection of work-style reforms in Japan, as well as a general move away from lifetime employment and a welcoming of more diversified ways of working, such as self-employment. In this context, the Japan Fair Trade Commission recently published its Report of Study Group on Human Resource and Competition Policy. The report covers three substantive topics: concerted practices, unilateral conducts and undesirable activities.
In 2017 the Japan Fair Trade Commission Competition Policy Research Centre published a report on competition issues surrounding Big Data. While the report did not presume that an oligopoly of digitalised businesses constituted a problem, it recognised that rapid advances in machine learning and data accumulation could boost the power of existing dominant players exponentially and limit opportunities for new market entrants.
Over the past two years, the Japan Fair Trade Commission (JFTC) has significantly amended its guidelines concerning distribution systems, giving particular consideration to the EU Commission's 2010 guidelines on vertical restraints. Although no cases have occurred in which the JFTC has had to decide on the legality of a particular selective distribution system, given that the number of traditional cartel cases is declining, it is likely to shift its focus to this area and follow in the footsteps of the EU Commission.
Over the past decade, the Japan Fair Trade Commission (JFTC) has made progressive efforts to revise its enforcement practice and procedures in order to align itself more closely with international standards. As part of its modernisation process, the JFTC is gradually adopting other regulators' assessment tools. It is also considering introducing a new penalty calculation system to provide it with more flexibility and discretion in setting fines in return for companies' cooperation.