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A law to form a new government agency to take charge of consumer affairs was enacted Friday with unanimous backing from the House of Councilors, paving the way for the body to be established as early as this fall.

By setting up the agency, the government aims to improve the quality of its administrative functions, which are often vertically divided among several entities, and finally shift its emphasis on consumer affairs to the needs of consumers, rather than manufacturers.

Japan is “particularly lagging behind in the area of consumer education,” said Seiko Noda, state minister in charge of consumer affairs. “The real challenge comes later, and we need to catch up with other countries.”

Under the new law, the prime minister is authorized to issue warnings and improvement orders to companies that damage consumers in cases where victims are not protected under any conventional laws.

The plan was initiated by Prime Minister Taro Aso’s predecessor, Yasuo Fukuda, in January 2008 amid a spate of food-labeling scandals and related incidents that undermined public confidence in food safety, including a spate of food poisonings involving Chinese-made frozen dumplings.

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