FTC asks court to block Rakuten free delivery plan

TOKYO (The Japan News/ANN) – Under the Antimonopoly Law, the Fair Trade Commission (FTC) is seeking an emergency order from the Tokyo District Court to block Rakuten Inc’s plan for free delivery of purchases over a certain amount on its online shopping site.

The move last Friday is the first time since June 2004 that the antitrust watchdog has requested an emergency court order against a company.

Rakuten, which operates a cybermall, announced in August 2019 its plan for tenants to bear the delivery costs of any purchases of JPY3,980 or more, except for delivery to certain remote areas of the nation.

In December 2019, Rakuten notified the tenants that it would implement the plan on March 18. On February 10, the FTC searched Rakuten’s headquarters in Tokyo on suspicion that that Rakuten is abusing its superior bargaining position over the tenants, putting the tenants in a disadvantageous position, in violation of the Antimonopoly Law.

Rakuten’s Chairman and President Hiroshi Mikitani said at a press conference in Tokyo on February 13 that the company will implement the plan as scheduled, describing the service as “shipping fee included” rather than “free shipping”.

The FTC filed the latest order after it decided that such a distinction makes virtually no difference.