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The Fair Trade Commission has conducted on-site inspections of 14 companies on suspicion of repeated big-rigging for contracts to supply personal computers to public schools in Hiroshima Prefecture, it was learned Wednesday.

The firms raided by the commission for their alleged violations of the anti-monopoly law included Nippon Telegraph and Telephone West Corp., Otsuka Corp., Fujitsu Leasing Co., Solcom Co., Hi-Elecom Co., Hokushin-Eiden and Shinsei Kogyosha Corp., according to sources with knowledge of the matter.

The antitrust watchdog plans to search the firms’ offices in the prefecture.

NTT West, a unit of Nippon Telegraph and Telephone Corp., is based in Osaka, while Otsuka and Fujitsu Leasing are based in Tokyo. Solcom, Hi-Elecom, Hokushin-Eiden and Shinsei Kogyosha have their head offices in the city of Hiroshima, the capital of Hiroshima Prefecture.

According to the sources, the 14 firms are suspected of repeatedly deciding winners and other details beforehand for the orders placed by the Hiroshima prefectural and municipal governments for the supply of PCs and related equipment for use at local public elementary, junior high and high schools.

Some of the companies held advance talks on the bid-rigging, and details of what was agreed were shared with others, according to the sources. The practice is believed to have started around 2013 or before.

The government aims to make a PC available to each student at elementary and junior high schools across the country by fiscal 2023. It is accelerating the schedule following nationwide school closures earlier this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic, with a view to completing PC distribution under the project by the end of March 2021. PC orders from local governments related to the project are therefore expected to increase.

Officials of NTT West, Otsuka, Solcom and Hi-Elecom have acknowledged that they were raided by the FTC and said that they will cooperate fully with the investigations.

Fujitsu Leasing refrained from commenting, saying only that the company was still confirming facts.