Unilaterally forcing 24-hour operations at franchise convenience stores may be a violation of the antimonopoly law, said Akinori Yamada, secretary-general of the Japan Fair Trade Commission.
If a convenience store operator unilaterally refuses a franchise store's request for a review of around-the-clock services and puts the shop at a disadvantage as a result, the act could amount to a violation of the law, he told a press conference.
Most of the convenience stores in Japan are franchise outlets. Operators maintain their stances that stores must be open around the clock in principle, but they may need to become more flexible following the remark by Yamada, industry watchers said.
The antimonopoly law bans stronger companies in terms of business scale or relations from having smaller business partners suffer losses or shoulder costs by abusing their dominant bargaining positions.
Franchise stores which find difficulties securing employees for continuing 24-hour operations or face plunges in profits due to surging labour costs may submit to operators requests for a review of services, according to the commission.