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The Fair Trade Commission raided Lawson Japan Co. and about 10 other related locations April 16 over allegations that the convenience store chain violated the Antimonopoly Law by demanding that suppliers deliver their products free of charge and seeking rebates for marketing their goods.

According to FTC and other sources involved in the case, Lawson, a subsidiary of the supermarket chain Daiei Inc., called a meeting of suppliers in Funabashi, Chiba Prefecture, near the end of January.

During the meeting, Lawson allegedly demanded that suppliers deliver their products without charge on the grounds that their goods will be sold in all Lawson stores if trial sales succeed. Lawson also gave the participants a paper asking them to indicate whether or not they would supply their products to the store chain for free, the sources said.

When a participant asked what would happen if the reply was negative, Lawson said it would not immediately stop taking delivery of their products but insinuated it might eventually do so, saying they must talk to company officers in charge, according to the sources. Lawson later told suppliers through distributors that it would purchase their products at 1 yen apiece instead of for free, they alleged.

A Tokyo daily commodity supplier said this put great pressure on small suppliers that deliver most of their products to Lawson. He added that he gave an affirmative reply to Lawson’s request in order to continue dealing with the chain, but said the demand was preposterous.

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