A pile of troubles among elderly people! Inquiries about IP phone services are growing
Recently IP phones have spread rapidly and about 60% of fixed line users now use IP phones. While IP phones are useful, local consumer centers across Japan received inquiries about various troubles related to IP phone services, the number of which doubled in FY2014 compared to FY2010.
The largest age group who sent the inquiries was 70s and older, followed by 60s. Common complaints were about troubles over solicitations and contracts, for example, "The service provider told me that use of IP phone decreases your telephone charge, but the charge was not lessened", "I did not intend to make a contract, but the contract was made before I knew" and so on. Some consumers reported troubles about IP phone service after making a contract, saying things like "The IP phone service has suddenly become unavailable".
Therefore, NCAC introduces recent cases of consultations and alert consumers with a view to preventing the occurrence of similar problems and holding back the expansion of the existing problems, while making requests and providing information to relevant organizations.
Diagram: Transition of the number of consultations
(data till August 10, 2015)
The number of consultations was: 1,538 in FY2010, 1,613 in FY2011, 2,588 in FY2012, 2,426 in FY2013, 3,282 in FY2014, and 893 in FY2015.
Sample cases of inquiries and complaints
- The service provider told me that use of IP phone decreases your telephone charge and I made a contract, but the charge was not lessened.
- I just asked to send a pamphlet when solicited by phone, but a contract was made before I knew.
- After making a contract of IP phone service through door-to-door sales, I found out that "emergency report system", a government service for elderly people, cannot be used via IP phone.
- After making a contract of IP phone, my family vetoed it. I want to cancel the contract based on the cooling-off rule.
- I was confused when the land line of my mother's home suddenly became unable to be connected.
Problems highlighted by the sampling of inquiries and complaints
- In a particular situation like sudden solicitation, consumers might happen to make a contract without correctly understanding the counterparty and the contract detail.
- Some consumers might make a contract without clearly recognizing the difference between traditional fixed analog telephone and IP phone.
- Some consumers think that they can exercise cooling-off right when contracting through telephone solicitation.
- These troubles are concentrated among elderly people.
Advice for Consumer
- When solicited, do not reply to the caller on the spot and check the contract detail with your family. If you don't need the service, flatly refuse to make a contract.
- Fully consider necessity for the service in light of your environment and purpose as well as its cost.
- Carefully read the paper you received from the service provider.
- Be aware that you always need to take adequate security measures.
- Consult your local consumer center when you feel uneasy.
In light of growing and widening use of IP phone, NCAC requests the following points to relevant organizations in order to achieve soundness of the market as well as to prevent the occurrence of similar problems and to hold back the expansion of the existing problems
- [Request to Telecom Services Promotion Conference]
- Based on the voluntary standards and guidelines for business activities by telecom service providers, NCAC requests the conference to fully inform related telecom service providers that service providers who solicit IP phone service contract should give an appropriate explanation to consumers, in particular elderly people, so that they can fully understand characteristics and key points of service to make a proper choice on their own initiative.
- [Request to Telecommunications Consumer Policy Division, Telecommunications Bureau, Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications]
- NCAC requests the division to instruct telecom service providers to give an appropriate explanation on characteristics and key points of service to consumers, in particular elderly people, when soliciting IP phone service contract so that they can determine if the service is necessary and suitable for them. Moreover, NCAC strongly hopes that the division will consider the establishment of a proper legal system in response to the growing troubles among elderly people.