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The Fair Trade Commission has notified more than 10 companies that they will be fined about ¥10 billion for operating a cartel for international air cargo fees, sources close to the matter said Saturday.

The FTC believes that the companies, including major distribution and logistics companies Nippon Express Co., Kintetsu World Express Inc. and Yusen Air & Sea Service Co., constrained fair competition by forming a cartel that added fuel surcharges and airport security charges to their air cargo service charges, they said.

The companies negotiated the arrangements at meetings of the Japan Aircargo Forwarders Association, and the practice continued from 2004 to 2007. They dissolved the cartel only after European Union and U.S. authorities began investigating in 2007, the sources said.

Air cargo charges were rapidly rising around the world in those years as crude oil prices soared.

The distribution companies, which do not maintain aircraft, are generally called forwarders. The three distribution firms had a combined share of about 50 percent in the domestic forwarding market.

The FTC has been investigating since last April and will decide on the exact amount of the fine after hearing from the companies. It will then issue them a cease-and-desist order, they said.

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