Moving to lower cellphone charges

May 12 , 2019

The Diet passed the revised Telecommunications Business Act on May 10 to reduce cellphone rates and expected to go into effect in the fall of 2019.

The revised law requires cellphone carriers to introduce a separate plan that clarifies such service terms as the price of a smartphone and monthly usage fees. Users should be able to readily compare the rate plans between carriers, spurring competition and thus driving down cellphone costs.

In addition, it prohibits contracts that ensnare customers by means of so-called “long-term binding” for two to four years. The law will allow customers greater flexibility in changing carriers or rate plans, emphasizing the value of user-friendly services.

Conventional rate plans discount monthly usage fees that include the cost of the cellphone on the condition that users sign a contract that binds them to the carrier’s plan over a certain number of years. That said, such plans have been criticized for being overly-complicated for users to understand and for the difficulty of changing carriers, resulting in customers being corralled by the three major cellphone companies and keeping usage rates high.

At the same time, cellphone carriers have already begun moving away from such conventional plans even before the revised law’s passing, separating the cost of devices from their usage fees, for instance, instigating a host of competitive prices and services among the carriers.

Komeito has persistently worked to lower cellphone plans, conducting public petitions, policy surveys and Diet questioning, since 2015, calling on the government to enable a fee structure optimization to reduce the cost burden on consumers.