A key competition law development in Japan in 2020: My first choice is Amazon Commitment Decision (Japan Fair Trade Commission [JFTC] 10 September 2020). As with many other jurisdictions, Japan is tackling digital platforms. The JFTC issued several reports since 2017, amended the applicable guidelines in 2019, and issued the commitment decision this year. Under the Japanese system, a breach of commitment does not result in a penalty and only enables the commission to commence an investigation. Consequently, the commitment procedure is an exceptionally soft way to enforce the Antimonopoly Act (AMA). In this case, the JFTC suspected that Amazon had abused its superior bargaining power by imposing disadvantageous conditions upon sellers. The JFTC appears to be more willing to regulate the abuse of superior bargaining power by platforms, as demonstrated in the case of Rakuten (JFTC 28 February 2020) and JFTC Guidelines Concerning ASBP in Transactions between Digital Platform Operators and Consumers that Provide Personal Information (December 2019).
Second is the Legislation to Exempt Bank Mergers from the AMA (Act No. 32 of 2020). The decline in population and an ultra-low interest rates policy caused many regional banks to enter serious deficits. To counter this problem, the Financial Services Agency encouraged mergers, to which the JFTC objected. Meanwhile, the JFTC deemed that a merger is lawful if the size of the market has shrunk to the extent that it is no longer able to sustain competition with or without the merger (see Wakui 2020). After a heated discussion, the government maintained its decision to introduce an AMA exemption, particularly in relation to the banking sector.
A place to visit in Japan after the pandemic: It can seem that Tokyo is prospering, whereas the rest of Japan is struggling. However, the true beauty of the country is evident in old Japan. Kyoto, the old capital of Japan (794–1899), is always the most popular tourist destination in Japan. I would recommend you to travel a little further to visit Kyoto suburbs such as Ohara and Kurama. Osaka (a merchant city known for its good sense of humour), Kobe (a sophisticated port city), Nara (the even older capital city, 710–794), and Wakayama (featuring spas, exotic Shinto shrines and a variety of outdoor activities in the mountains and ocean) are within a few hours of Kyoto. Be brave and speak to locals. Arigato (thank you) will do everywhere, while adding a smile and a bow will make your communication perfect. For those bowing for the first time, the deer in Nara city will show you how.
I wish you merry Christmas and a happy new year. We hope to see you in person in 2021!
Professor Dr Masako Wakui teaches competition law at Kyoto University, Japan.