Japan raids stores over school uniform cartel

School uniforms in Japan are often sold through a handful of specific vendors designated by schools

The cost of school uniforms weighs heavily on many a parent's budget, and in Japan authorities have got involved, raiding one of the country's biggest department stores on suspicion of price collusion.

Daimaru Matsuzakaya Department Stores and its subsidiary were raided Wednesday by the Japan Fair Trade Commission, according to the firms' parent J. Front Retailing.

"We take this situation very seriously and will fully cooperate with the inspection," J. Front Retailing said in a brief statement.

The department store chain, along with several other local vendors, is suspected of colluding to keep prices high for uniforms for five public high schools in Aichi region in central Japan.

School uniforms in Japan are often sold through a handful of specific vendors designated by schools.

Uniforms are usually more expensive than regular clothes, costing around 30,000 to 35,000 yen ($280 to $320) for a set.

Wednesday's raid is the latest in a series of occasional anti-trust cases launched in connection with Japan's vast and tradition-bound uniform industry.

Many Japanese schools have their own unique uniforms, as do many workers, including police officers, garbage collectors, train drivers and employees at the country's ubiquitous convenience stores.

Investigators had in recent years uncovered price collusion in connection with uniforms for an airline, a cellphone vendor, and a railway.

The Fair Trade Commission declined to discuss details of the case.

Pricey school uniforms have hit the headlines in Japan before: in 2018, a Japanese public elementary school came under fire for its decision to require students to wear Armani-branded uniforms.