Business

Japan's Fair Trade Commission investigates suspected school uniform price cartel

JIJI

The Fair Trade Commission on Wednesday conducted on-site inspections of Daimaru Matsuzakaya Department Stores Co.’s head office in Tokyo and other locations over an alleged price cartel for the uniforms for students of five public high schools in Toyota, Aichi Prefecture.

The inspections also targeted Matsuzakaya department stores in Toyota and Nagoya, some uniform sellers in Toyota, and Daimaru Matsuzakaya Sales Associates Co., a unit of Daimaru Matsuzakaya Department Stores, according to sources.

It is believed to be the first time that the antimonopoly watchdog has conducted on-site inspections over a school uniform price cartel.

A few years ago, or even before, Daimaru Matsuzakaya Department Stores and others allegedly started colluding to raise uniform prices for the five Aichi prefectural high schools in violation of the antimonopoly law, the sources said, adding that the suspected price hikes were carried out before the entrance season for each year.

In many cases, schools designate makers and sellers of uniforms, which present estimated prices to the schools.

Daimaru Matsuzakaya Department Stores and others are designated by most of the five schools as uniform sellers, and they raised prices at the same time, the sources said.

J. Front Retailing Co., the parent of Daimaru Matsuzakaya Department Stores, said that it takes the situation seriously and will fully cooperate with investigations by the FTC.

In November 2017, the FTC released a report on its probe into sales practices for uniforms for public junior high schools.

The report said school uniform prices had been on the increase due to inhibited competition, calling for an increase in designated sellers.

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