Increase of inquiries about problems when a utility company is closing down or when a consumer is switching to another supplier
In Japan, the electricity retail market was liberalized in 2016. Afterwards, the gas retail market was liberalized in 2017. Since the launch of newcomers to the market, three years have passed in the field of electricity and two years have passed in the field of gas.
There has been an increase in the number of inquiries and complaints about problems when an electricity or gas supplier is closing down or when a consumer is switching to another supplier after being solicited by telemarketing or door-to-door sales.
Number of inquiries
Diagram 1: Transition in the number of inquiries about electricity retail liberalization
The number of inquiries was 533 in April-June 2016, 263 in July-September 2016, 192 in October-December 2016, 318 in January-March 2017, 340 in April-June 2017, 311 in July-September 2017, 556 in October-December 2017, 739 in January-March in 2018, 1,044 in April-June 2018, 1,277 in July-September 2018, 1,206 in October-December 2018, 1,337 in January-March 2019, and 536 in April-May 2019.
Diagram 2: Transition in the number of inquiries about gas retail liberalization
The number of inquiries was 1 in April-June 2016, 3 in July-September 2016, 14 in October-December 2016, 91 in January-March 2017, 173 in April-June 2017, 110 in July-September 2017, 98 in October-December 2017, 137 in January-March in 2018, 144 in April-June 2018, 150 in July-September 2018, 163 in October-December 2018, 231 in January-March 2019, and 93 in April-May 2019.
Sampling of inquiries and complaints
I received a phone call from a person claiming to be a bill collector entrusted by a major electric power company. The person said, "Our electricity rate is lower, so why don't you change your supplier?" I didn't intend to change my contractor. In the course of conversation, I just told my customer number and address on the meter reading slip. Then the person said, "I will send you a document, so please think about our plan." At a later date, I received a bill for electricity from the company. When I phoned the company to ask about the matter, they told that a contract had been concluded and a penalty would be charged in case of cancellation. I don't recollect signing a contract with the company. I want to switch back to the original contractor.
(inquiry in April 2019)
Other inquiries and complaints
- I signed a document because I thought it was for replacing the electricity meter with new one. Shortly after that I noticed that I had signed for a contract with another electricity supplier, so I applied for cancellation.
- A sales person said, "It has been decided that electricity for the whole apartment building will be supplied by our company." Then I entered into a contract for electricity with the company. Later it was found that the story was false and that the gas supplier had been also changed to the company.
- My electricity supplier decided to close its business and sent me a notice of contract termination.
- The department of electric power transmission sent me a notice of outage.
- A sales person told me that my rate would be lowered by switching to a package contract for gas and electricity.
Advice for consumers
- Personal information written on the meter reading slip should be handled with care.
- When switching to another contractor, carefully read contract conditions.
- Even after switching to another supplier, you may be able to exercise the cooling off right.
- Although the supply of electricity or gas will not be cut off soon when your utility supplier closes its business, it is recommendable to change your contractor to another supplier as early as possible in that case.
- In order to switch to another electricity or gas supplier, you just need to apply for a contract with a new supplier via telephone or other methods.
- In case of trouble, consult your local consumer affairs center or the Electricity and Gas Market Surveillance Commission shown below.