Japan's antitrust watchdog ends inspection over Airbnb

FILE PHOTO: The logo of Airbnb is displayed at an Airbnb event in Tokyo, Japan, June 14, 2018. REUTERS/Issei Kato

TOKYO (Reuters) - Japan’s antitrust watchdog said on Wednesday it would end its inspection of the Japanese operations of Airbnb Inc as the U.S. home-sharing platform provider has taken appropriate measures to eliminate suspicion.

Japan Fair Trade Commission (JFTC) opened the probe because Airbnb had forced certain clients not to list properties on a rival website, a move that would undermine competition, said Yasuhiro Yoshikawa, a senior investigator.

JFTC, which made the first on-site inspection of Airbnb last October, would end the inspection because Airbnb had told their clients that the contract that kept them from listing on a rival website was no longer effective, Yoshikawa said.

These clients are host management companies, which provide various services for property owners, such as listing properties on the website, making reservations and arranging cleaning services.

JFTC said there were four such management companies which had contracts with Airbnb as of June, down from six a year earlier. But it did not provide the number of properties managed by these companies.

“We have cooperated fully with the JFTC and adjusted contracts in response to their inquiry,” Airbnb said in a statement. “We’re pleased this matter has come to a close.”

Japan’s home-sharing market shrank rapidly after the country in June introduced a home sharing law, which limits home-sharing to 180 days a year, a cap hosts say makes it difficult to turn a profit.

Reporting by Junko Fujita; Editing by Malcolm Foster, Amrutha Gayathri