After 15 months of investigation, the Fair Trade Commission concluded July 23 that it sees nothing illegal with Fuji Photo Film’s business practices, effectively turning down Washington’s calls for stricter implementation of the Antimonopoly Law.

At the same time, however, the antitrust watchdog imposed on the company to improve the transparency of its business practices to ensure that contracted distributors and retailers are free to handle other makers’ products. The FTC report came as disputes continue between Japan and the United States over the photo film and paper market, which Washington claims is closed to foreign competitors such as Eastman Kodak Co.

Washington filed a three-point complaint with the World Trade Organization in June 1996. The Geneva-based trade watchdog is expected to hand down its first judgment in October.

In its report, the FTC acknowledged that Fuji holds a dominant position in the Japanese film market with a 72.3 percent share in terms of sales value. However, the report says, the FTC found little evidence to suspect Fuji of illegal business practices, such as influencing distributors and retailers to sell only Fuji products.

Every film maker, domestic or foreign, is ensured fair access to various forms of film retailers either through sales agents, sales affiliates or other distributors, the FTC said. Despite the reality that Fuji sales agents are exclusive distributors for Fuji products, the FTC said this by itself is not a violation of the law. But it added that it is necessary to ensure that those agents are free to handle other makers’ products whenever they wish.

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