Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Well that makes me mad.

You're tempted, right? I know I am. All these fancy phones that do everything except make you breakfast. Oh wait, you already have one? Yeah, ok. I'm not so quick about buying new gadgets. Half the time I see people around me buying them, getting sick of them, and moving on before they've even gotten their money's worth out of the often quite dear doodads.

(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. 


  1. guessing i missed my chance last AUGUST, which was 4 years since coming to japan. damn you au. then again, *i* also willingly have two phones, so i guess that's the price i pay for not wanting to "give up" my old phone when i bought my iphone. am not seriously thinking about switching over full time to the iphone, and will just have to suck it up and pay the fee i guess.

    but yeah, real estate agencies and the whole key money system needs a serious overhaul. we're not living in the bubble anymore folks!!

  2. and by "am not seriously thinking about switching" i of course meant "am now seriously thinking about switching"

  3. Few things:
    -If it's just the battery holding you back, check ebay first. Worth a shot.
    -Battery life on the smartphones are terrible imo; isn't it bad for your brother? I always carry an extra charged battery.
    -Still, I really recommend one. I have used mine an average of over two hours a day since I got it six months ago, not including just music. And the short uses are very valuable - taking short notes, camera/video, schedule, J/E dictionary...
    -If you do find a solution for your current phone, the latest generation of ipod's have all the other features of an iphone at a very good price.
    -As for the fee, can't say it's a good idea, but I would sign up for another company first then refuse to pay the AU bill. That shit really pisses me off. I've got a nonpayment on my US credit record when a hospital overcharged me, and they sent me in a loop when I emailed and phoned them.

  4. J., it so obnoxious! The key money thing is highway robbery. And the even crappier thing is that so many landlords are blatantly racist/xenophobic that your choice is even more whittled down. Really frustrating.

  5. Don, I could pay for a battery. I just don't know if I want to. My phone is ancient.
    Yeah, he's complained about the battery on the Toshiba phone, but I've heard good things about some of the 'droids.
    I already have an ipod, I don't need to replace it. Like I said, I don't buy gadgets very easily. So if I get a new thing, it will probably be a phone since I won't have a choice soon. I'm marinating on it!