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[December 2018]

Be careful when using home emergency service for faucet leak repair, unlocking, etc.

Home emergency service for toilet repair, faucet leak repair, key repair, pest control, etc. is useful for consumers who lack technical skills and knowledge when the need arises. On the other hand, local consumer affairs centers and the like across Japan have received numerous inquiries about home emergency service from consumers who got in trouble with businesses over the price or service.

Diagram: Number of inquiries about home emergency service received through PIO-NET1
Graph showing the annual number of inquiries from FY2013 through November 30, 2018, followed by description in text

  1. *1 The pink area of the bar shows 1,583 inquiries received from April 1, 2017 through November 30, 2017, for comparison with the same period in FY2018.
  2. *2 The data in FY2018 shows inquiries from April 1, 2018 through November 30, 2018.

The number of inquiries was 1,787 in FY2013, 1,871 in FY2014, 2,081 in FY2015, 2,390 in FY2016, 2,763 in FY2017, 2,017 in FY2018 through November 30, 2018 (The number in the same period in FY2017 was 1,583).

  1. 1 PIO-NET is a database that collects information on inquiries concerning consumer affairs by linking NCAC with local consumer affairs centers and similar organizations across Japan via an online network.

Sampling of inquiries and complaints

[Case1] I called in a company to unclog a toilet. Additional work was carried out one after another. The total price became much higher than I was originally told.
I dropped a ballpoint pen in the toilet bowl and the toilet was clogged. I saw an online advertisement "Repair price starts at 1,080 yen". I called the company on the ad and asked them to come to make an estimate for unclogging the toilet. Later, a worker came and checked the toilet. The worker said, "We have to remove the toilet to repair it. The price will be 30,000 yen." I told that the price was too expensive. The worker insisted, "We cannot repair the toilet without removing it." Then, I decided to place an order for the repair work. After a while, the worker said, "The pen inside needs to be crushed with a special machine. The price will be 150,000 yen." Again I told that it was too expensive. The worker said, "We will give you a discount. In case of breaking the pipe and the floor around the toilet, by the way, the price will be 500,000 yen, which is far more expensive." I accepted the offer reluctantly. After the repair work, the worker showed me a written contract indicating the total price of 220,000 yen including charges for additional work, and said, "If you pay in cash, we will give you a discount and the price will be 200,000 yen." I paid 200,000 yen in cash. I still think it's too expensive. Is it possible to cancel the contract?
(received in June 2018, woman in her 60s)

Other inquiries and complaints

  • I saw an ad "Estimate is FREE" and requested the company to check the dripping faucet. The company charged me a fee for the estimation.
  • I asked an exterminating company to rid my house of rats. However, the rats were not completely exterminated.
  • I asked an exterminating company to provide an estimate for bat removal. Because of the situation after the estimation, I had to conclude a contract with the company. The work was sloppy.
  • I requested an estimate for unlocking a door. I decided not to order the service because the price was expensive. Then, I was charged for a cancellation fee.

Problems highlighted from sampling of inquiries and complaints

  1. Some consumers were charged for an estimate, although it was initially indicated that the estimate was free.
  2. When a consumer called in a company for a quotation, the company urged the consumer to enter into an expensive contract on the spot.
  3. In some cases, the actual work was not satisfactory.
  4. Some consumers were charged for cancellation. Some companies didn't accept to apply the cooling-off rule.

Advice for consumers

  1. Do not swallow the price advertised or told on the phone.
  2. Before entering into a contract, get competitive quotes from several companies and compare their services and prices to decide with care.
  3. In order to prepare for urgent incidents, collect information beforehand.
  4. If a proposed price or service is unacceptable, flatly refuse to conclude a contract.
  5. If you get in trouble, consult your local consumer affairs center.