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The Fair Trade Commission has searched more than 10 utility meter makers, including Tokyo-based Kimmon Mfg. Co. and Nagoya-based Aichi Tokei Denki Co., suspecting they violated the Antimonopoly Law by rigging water meter bids, FTC officials said Wednesday.

The companies are believed to have conspired to agree on prices in competitive tender bids offered by the Tokyo Metropolitan Government’s waterworks department, the officials said.

The other firms include Toyo Keiki Co., based in Nagano Prefecture, and Ricoh Elemex Corp., headquartered in Nagoya, they said.

In February 1997, the antimonopoly watchdog filed criminal charges against 25 firms, including Kimmon, in similar cases because they ignored an FTC order in December 1992 against 28 companies to stop the practice. At that time, the 25 firms received fines ranging from 5 million yen to 9 million yen.

But even afterward, Kimmon and other firms apparently continued to rig bids, the officials said, adding that the FTC may bring criminal complaints again.

An official at Kimmon confirmed the FTC conducted an on-site investigation but did not comment further.

An Aichi Tokei Denki official said the company is unaware of the latest incident.

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