Reuters reports that Japanese regulators are considering taking action against Apple for possible antitrust violations. Three Japanese carriers are the main focus of the investigation, but it appears that Apple may also be implicated.

Japan’s Fair Trade Commission (FTC) said that NTT Docomo, KDDI Corp and Softbank Group were refusing to sell older surplus iPhone models to third party retailers, thereby hobbling smaller competitors. Apple was not named in that report, but two senior government sources told Reuters that regulators were also focusing on Apple’s supply agreements with all three carriers.

It’s reported that it is Apple’s contract terms that ultimately prevents older model iPhones being made available for sale within Japan …

Apple’s contract is said to require surplus stock of older iPhones to be sent to other markets, such as Hong Kong, while other contract terms are said to result in carriers favoring iPhones over phones from Samsung and other rivals.

The report notes that while the iPhone 7 and Samsung Galaxy S7 both sell for the exact same price without a contract, the iPhone price on contract is much lower than that of the Samsung flagship.

Apple did not respond directly to a Reuters request for comment, simply noting the economic benefit the company brings to the country.

When asked about the antitrust concerns, Apple forwarded a link to a webpage published at the time of the Aug. 2 FTC report that says it has created or supports 715,000 jobs in Japan with Japanese-based developers raking in more than $9 billion in revenue from Apple apps since 2008. It did not comment further.

The investigation may end up being concluded informally, the regulator stating that it hoped that applying pressure to the carriers would result in them renegotiating their contracts with Apple.

It’s not long since Apple settled a high-profile antitrust case in the USA by paying out $400M to customers as settlement for an ebook price-fixing case.

You can follow on Twitter or join our Facebook page to keep yourself updated on all the latest from Apple and the Web.