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Fair Trade investigators raid Apple Japan

Price-fixing allegations under scrutiny

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Japan's Fair Trade Commission (FTC) has begun an investigation into allegations that Apple Japan has been fixing the prices of the Mac makers consumer-oriented iMac desktop and iBook notebook machines. And the FTC kicked off its enquiry by raiding Apple Japan's Tokyo HQ in search of incriminating evidence. Neither the FTC nor Apple Japan has commented on the investigation -- an Apple Japan spokeswoman, cited by the Kyodo News agency, simply said: "We are still trying to find out what exactly is being inspected." However, Japanese sources suggest the FTC believes Apple has been twisting retailers arms not to discount either the iMac or the iBook. If such a move took place, it could well have been made in response to the company's problems supplying iBooks and iMacs, a result of September's Taiwan Earthquake. For example, Casio was forced to delay the late-November launch of its Cassiopeia FIVA MPC-102 notebook thanks to the quake. Yesterday, Casio said the machine would be delayed a second time. Initial supplies of iBooks and the latest version of the iMac were in short supply mid October, the time of their launch in Japan, despite earlier predictions by Apple Japan executives to the contrary. The company may well have acted to prevent resellers running out of product too quickly. Certainly it has been taking very tight control of its production, and inventory and channel management over the last quarter. ®

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