National

FTC seeks halt to Usen's alleged unfair price-cutting

The Fair Trade Commission sought an emergency court order Wednesday to suspend alleged unfair price-cutting practices by cable broadcast station Usen Corp. within a month.

It was the first such emergency motion by the antimonopoly watchdog since 1975, and only the seventh since 1955. Most of the past cases involved national newspapers trying to erode local papers’ customer bases.

In filing the motion with the Tokyo High Court, the FTC accused Usen’s music servicing arm of violating the Antimonopoly Law. Usen exclusively offered discounts to Can System Co. customers of as much as 20 percent on equipment and up to a year’s worth of free access to Usen’s 40-channel music programs, the FTC said.

The measures were part of Usen’s efforts to forcibly acquire rival Can System, FTC officials told reporters.

Usen said in a statement that there was nothing illegal in any part of its business, but added that the company would cooperate with future FTC investigations. Usen spokesman Joichiro Suzuki denied any moves by the company to acquire Can System, adding, “It’s all speculation.”

Since October, when the price war began, Can System lost more than 10 percent of its clientele, or roughly 30,000 customers, the FTC said. In August, Usen held an 81 percent share of the 1.5 million-client market. Can System held an 18 percent share.

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