Authorities from the European Union, Canada and the United States have started an investigation into three major Japanese chemical firms, suspecting they have formed a pricing monopoly for a substance used to increase the strength of vinyl chloride products, sources said Friday.

The overseas subsidiaries of Mitsubishi Rayon Co., Kureha Chemical Industry Co. and Kaneka Corp. are being investigated in connection with the alleged pricing monopoly for chemical agents known as modifiers.

Modifiers are various chemical agents that increase the strength of vinyl chloride and plastic products. The substances make it easier for manufacturers to process and shape their products.

By allegedly forming the monopoly, the three firms are suspected of inflicting financial damage on overseas users of the modifiers in addition to Japanese users, the sources said.

The foreign authorities are investigating the allegedly anticompetitive actions of the three firms by teaming up with Japan’s Fair Trade Commission, the sources said.

FTC investigators on Wednesday searched the offices of the three Japanese manufacturers, which effectively dominate the domestic modifier market.

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