(pancakes and photo by my friend Angela)
Anyhoo, I've been eyeing the 'droids because my phone is about six years old and holds a battery charge like poo. (I inquired about getting a new battery from the provider - they give them to you free if the battery goes in the first year or two. It was already too long.) And also because my phone is so relatively ancient that it's going to be phased out in a year and the company is offering me some kind of discount-because-you-don't-have-a-choice on a new model (sound familiar?).
I'm certainly long winded! Getting to the point already... my brother got a 'droid and switched to docomo, because his phone bills were astronomical and they had better all-you-can-use deals along with a new member signup discount. I went with him to cancel his au phone, because it was on my family plan and under my name umbrella. He's had the phone for two years eight months... well long enough to have fulfilled the two year contract commitment. Or so I thought.
Nope, it turns out that they automatically sign you up for a new contract every two years. So every two years, you have one month to cancel your contract. If you don't cancel it within that month (difficult to find in my phone bill, squished in the fine print and only discernible after some light math), it's renewed... and you have to pay a ¥9975 cancellation fee.
That seems pretty rude to me! I don't understand how they get away with this stuff. The culture of "you pay me to renew your contract so that you can continue to give me money" that we have here in Japan seems usurious, to put it gently.
We've recently had some legislation in the States to keep companies like the credit card giants from doing just this kind of thing. We're still far from keeping companies from exploiting people who don't pay laser-eyed attention to every line item on their bills. Can anyone tell me about consumer advocacy movements in Japan? The mobile phone companies, real estate agencies, key-money-grubbing landlords, and clubs with astronomical entrance fees that give you little in return could sure use a spanking.
What I mean to say, in the most roundabout way possible, is watch your renewal times on your phone bill if you're thinking of switching companies.