Japan to start antitrust probe on Apple and Google, says report

Topics Japan | antitrust law | Apple

The panel will evaluate business dealings in Japan and whether they are conducted in a fair manner compared with cases overseas
The Japanese government will start investigating Apple and Alphabet’s Google deal with Japanese smartphone makers, which could lead to tightening antitrust regulations, the Nikkei newspaper reported Sunday, without saying where it got the information.

A government panel, which consists of officials, bureaucrats and external experts, will kick off the discussion this month as Apple’s iOS and Google’s Android software stands at more than 90 per cent of the Japanese smartphone market, the paper said. The probe will include input from executives from domestic smartphone handset makers as well as manufacturers of smart speakers and personal computers.

The panel will evaluate business dealings in Japan and whether they are conducted in a fair manner compared with cases overseas. The government may step up antitrust regulations if the panel finds any issues from the probe, the paper said. 

Back in June 2020, Japan announced that it will will join forces with the United States and Europe to take on any market abuses by the four Big Tech companies. This was perceived as a sign that Tokyo will join global efforts to regulate digital platform operators.

“If the size of any merger or business-tie up is big, we can launch an anti-monopoly investigation into the buyer’s process of acquiring a start-up,” Kazuyuki Furuya, chairman of Japan's Fair Trade Commission, had told Reuters back then. “We’re closely watching developments including in Europe.”

Japan was perceived as laying the groundwork to regulate platform operators. Among them are big tech giants dubbed “GAFA” —Google, Apple, Amazon AMZN.O and Facebook FB.O — that face various antitrust probes in western nations.

Multi-national companies like GAFA have similar business practices across the globe, which makes global coordination crucial.

“If there’s a policy priority for the government, there’s no doubt the FTC should think about what it can do on that front,” Furuya had said in 2020.

“By participating in the government’s debate on policy issues, we have been reflecting our thinking in the process,” he had added.

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