The Abe administration plans to introduce a system that will exempt companies accused of violating the antimonopoly law from penalties if they pledge to take steps to address the problem, according to informed sources.
Companies accused by the Fair Trade Commission of engaging in unfair trade practices would have the leeway to craft voluntary improvement programs, which would include steps to prevent further violations. Such firms would be free from penalties if the programs are approved by the FTC, the sources said over the weekend.
If a company fails to deliver on the pledge, the FTC would have seven years, instead the five years at present, to impose a fine.
The plan to introduce the system will be spelled out in a bill to revise the antimonopoly law. The administration plans to submit the bill to the Diet during the current session running through the end of May.
The plan is based on the 12-nation Trans-Pacific Partnership free trade agreement, which requires member countries to introduce a system allowing authorities and companies to resolve antitrust violations on a voluntary basis.
The voluntary resolution system would mainly cover business practices that involve abuse of a dominant bargaining position. Possible cases include one in which a major supermarket forces suppliers to shoulder costs for sales campaigns.
Illegal cartel and bid-rigging cases involving two or more companies would not be covered by the system.