(Reuters) – Japan will team up with the US and Europe to tackle any market abuse by the four big tech companies, the new head of its antitrust watchdog said Monday. This is a sign that Tokyo will join the global effort to regulate digital platform operators.
Kazuyuki Furuya, chairman of Japan’s Fair Trade Commission (FTC), also said Tokyo could open an investigation into any merger or business relationship with fitness tracker maker Fitbit, if the size of such deals is big enough.
“When the size of a merger or business combination is large, we can launch an antimonopoly investigation into the acquisition of a startup (like Fitbit) by the buyer,” he told Reuters. “We are closely monitoring developments, including in Europe.”
EU antitrust authorities opened an investigation in August into a $ 2.1 billion deal by Alphabet unit Google to buy Fitbit, with the aim of keeping Apple and Samsung in the wearable technology market.
Japan lays the foundation for the regulation of platform operators. Among them are the big technology giants with the name “GAFA” (Google, Apple, Amazon and Facebook), who are confronted with various antitrust proceedings in western countries.
Multinational companies like GAFA have similar business practices around the world, which makes global coordination critical, Furuya said.
“We will work closely with our colleagues in the US and Europe and respond to any measures that impede competition,” he said.
“This is an area I’ll be aggressively pushing through,” he said, adding that the FTC stands ready to open probes if digital platformers abuse their dominant positions on consumers.
Furuya, who took office in September, also said the FTC will examine the Japanese wireless market to see if there is room for improvement to fuel competition.
Such a move would support Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga’s attempt to cut Japan’s cell phone charges, which he has repeatedly criticized as being too high.
Furuya disagreed with the view that helping the government to meet its political priorities could undermine the FTC’s position as a body mandated to act independently of political interference.
“If there is a political priority for the government, the FTC should no doubt think about what it can do on that front,” said Furuya.
“By participating in the government debate on political issues, we gave some thought [on] our thinking. This is what our organization should do. “
(Reporting by Leika Kihara and Takahiko Wada. Editing by Chang-Ran Kim and Gerry Doyle.)
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