Rakuten defends charges


The multimillionaire boss of Web mall operator Rakuten is defending its pay model of charging merchants, ignoring a move by archrival Yahoo Japan to eliminate fees.

Rakuten Chairman and CEO Hiroshi Mikitani has ruled out following suit on the plan announced by Yahoo Japan’s Masayoshi Son, which is seen in some quarters as the opening salvo of a possible turf war.

“Our basic policy is to offer good services for online tenants, so that they can make profits and customers can buy good products conveniently for reasonable prices,” Mikitani said Monday at a Tokyo business forum.

“That is the way in which we can also make reasonable profits. We want to build this win-win-win relationship,” he said. “Having said so, I don’t really care about the recent announcement” by Yahoo Japan.

Yahoo Japan’s Son earlier this month unveiled a new strategy for e-commerce business, announcing he would eliminate all fees and royalties for merchants in the Yahoo Shopping electronic mall and make it free to sell items in its Yahoo Auction section.

Shops previously had to pay an initial fee of ¥21,000 and a monthly fee of ¥25,000, along with commissions of up to 6 percent.

Yahoo Shopping plays a distant second fiddle to Rakuten in the Japanese market, with 20,000 tenants against the more than 40,000 touted by Rakuten Ichiba.

Speaking to the Nikkei Global Management Forum in Tokyo, Mikitani said he would prefer that the government deregulate the Internet.

“We should make it free completely, because it would create innovations that we have not seen,” he said. “We should change the way of thinking from making money by charging for the Internet communications to making new (online) service and exporting the service.”

Mikitani’s empire now includes Canadian e-reader company Kobo and Singapore-based video-on-demand provider Viki.

“We are creating our own service,” he said. “Online shops in Rakuten Ichiba are encouraged to offer good service and products. . . . We play the role of their (e-commerce) consultant, so that tenants can learn to improve their service and attract fans.”