The Tokyo Stock Exchange plans to refund the difference between the fees it charges brokerages for real-time market data for their Internet-based clients and the cost of running the system, commencing this fiscal year, TSE officials said Friday.

The exchange spent a total of 3.97 billion yen in the year through March 31 on maintaining the service, while charging brokerages 4.5 billion yen, a difference of around 500 million yen, the officials said.

“The net income from the real-time information system is expected to total 2.1 billion yen in the five-year period from the current fiscal year, so we will reimburse 500 million yen to 600 million yen each year through cutbacks in the per-customer fee (for the service),” an official at the TSE’s information service department said.

Securities companies obtain stock quotes, trading volumes and other real-time market information for their online clients from the TSE’s computerized market-information distribution system.

The TSE charges brokerages 180 yen a month for each of their online customers.

Japan has seen the number of online customers shoot up since October 1999 when the government gave brokerages the freedom to set commissions, thus resulting in low commissions for online trading.

Nomura Securities Co. has the biggest Web-based customer base, with 256,000 online clients as of May 31, meaning it must pay the exchange some 46 million yen a month.

But the cost of the TSE’s real-time data service has hampered brokerages’ efforts to cut costs amid growing competition to woo investors by offering low commissions, the TSE officials said.

Competition has prevented brokerages from passing on the cost of the TSE data service to their customers, leading them to demand that the exchange lower the fee, the officials said.

An official at the Daiwa Securities group said, “We do not see any rationale for that fee, because both the destination of the exchange’s income from the fee and how the exchange has computed that per-customer fee has remained unclear.”