• Kyodo News

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Seiko Noda, the state minister in charge of consumer affairs, said Friday that networking marketer Amway Japan Ltd. bought eight tickets for her fundraising party for ¥160,000 from 2002 to April this year.

Noda, however, ruled out stepping down over the issue, telling reporters that Amway’s financial contribution to her had nothing to do with comments she made 12 years ago in favor of the industry.

Noda, a lawmaker of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party, said she will return the money to the company.

During the House of Councilors Budget Committee meeting Thursday, Noda said she asked questions in a Diet committee 12 years ago in favor of the multilevel marketing industry, arguing that one-sided criticism against it might discourage the creation of a new industry.

On Friday, she denied that she raised questions at the company’s request or in exchange for political donations.

Her remarks came after Democratic Party of Japan lawmaker Yukichi Maeda left the main opposition force over collusive links with the industry, which has sometimes caused problems with consumers over bids and the return of goods. Maeda left the DPJ on Wednesday and said Thursday he will not run in the next Lower House election.

According to the Diet minutes, Noda told the House of Representatives Commerce and Industry Committee in April 1996, “Door-to-door sales in the form of chain or multilevel marketing are in the consumers’ interest. . . . The industry has implemented its own voluntary controls, helping to create a number of good dealers.

“Consumers must be clever and strong. . . . Protection alone does not necessarily lead to good consumer (protection) activities,” she said at the time.

On Thursday, Noda told the House of Councilors Budget Committee session that she lacked sufficient knowledge about the industry 12 years ago and did not ask questions from the perspective of consumers at that time.

“I’d like to tighten controls (on the pyramid sales industry) and do my best (as consumer affairs minister) to reduce the number of people who fall victim to such sales practices due to a lack of knowledge,” she said.

Noda assumed the post of minister of state for science and technology policy, food safety, and also for consumer affairs in Prime Minister Taro Aso’s Cabinet in late September.

Aso and his predecessor, Yasuo Fukuda, have both signaled the importance of a consumer-oriented administration, in a departure from a producer- and seller-oriented one, ahead of the next general election, which is widely expected to be called soon.

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