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Hi Blog. Here’s another example of how unequal treatment in customer service, when predicated upon things such as visa status (which is in fact none of the company’s business), leaves NJ open to discrimination. According to Submitter “Mark”, this is affecting people on Student Visas, where denial of service is apparently new and arbitrary. He describes his experience at Rakuten Mobile below. It’s tough enough for NJ to do the basics for life in Japan, such as open a bank account or rent an apartment. Now NJ students can’t even get a cellphone from Rakuten.
Alas, this is in fact nothing new (I’ve written about, for example, cellphone operator’s NTT DoCoMo’s unequal policies before, which were so silly that they eventually abandoned them after the information came out in one of my Japan Times columns). But it still should be known about, so people can take their business elsewhere, if possible. Anyone know of an alternative cellphone company with less discriminatory policies? Debito Arudou, Ph.D.
Subject: New Discriminatory Policy by Rakuten.
Date: April 26, 2019
To: Debito Arudou (email@example.com)
I would like to make public a New Discriminatory Policy being implemented systematically in Rakuten Mobile.
It seems that the company recently decided to deny the service to foreign customers.
I have living in Japan for 2 years. When I arrived, I applied online for their service and they accepted my application immediately. This week, I tried to make a contract online for 2 friends that just came to Japan. Their online application was rejected 3 times without providing the reason. I checked everything in their application and was correct. They uploaded their scanned residence card and the quality of the image was perfect. Also the contents of the application were correct.
Hence, we went to a Rakuten Mobile Store in Ikebukuro on the afternoon of April 23. They asked for their residence cards: after seeing the residence card they denied the service arguing that the company just established new rules and are now stricter with foreigners.
The 2 persons that were denied the service have a valid visa until April 2021 (2 years). They are graduate students at the University of Tokyo as me. They didn’t ask anything about the applicants. They just turned down the request based on being foreigners.
I asked the reason and the lady was ashamed and said that recently the Company has began to be stricter with foreigners. I replied back saying that 2 years ago my application was accepted under the same conditions and the lady was ashamed. It seems to be a new a discriminatory policy set by a well-known company.
I would like to explain things chronologically:
– April 19: Two international students enrolled at The University of Tokyo apply online for a SIM Card Plan only (they have cellphone already). I carefully checked their application since my level of Japanese is better. They got rejected. “Reason: Other” (理由:その他). In total, 3 attempts were done.
– April 23 (5.00pm): We went to Rakuten Mobile Ikebukuro Store (Telf. 03-5957-3051). A lady asked for their Residence Cards and consulted privately with other staff. She said: “Sorry. We cannot accept your application. Recently the Company began to be stricter with foreigners”.
I replied back: “Two years ago my application was accepted under exactly the same conditions as them. Why are they being rejected ?”
The Employee was really ashamed. She said “The Staying Time [在留期間] is not enough and the Company has become stricter with foreigners”.
My friends are MEXT Scholarship Students at The University of Tokyo with a mid-term visa valid From April 2, 2019 until April 2, 2021. Under the same conditions, I was accepted in Rakuten Mobile in 2017.
– April 25 (5.30pm): We visited Rakuten Mobile in BicCamera Akihabara. Again rejected. The only employee of Rakuten at that Branch said: It is NOT possible with this Visa.
We decided to try again and took a train to BicCamera in Kashiwa, Chiba-Ken. There, another MEXT Scholarship Student from The University of Tokyo got his SIM Card that same day few hours earlier. Another rejection! Surprised, I asked the reason(s). They said that my friend who went earlier had a “a few days more of validity” in his residence card and the system of Rakuten was issuing a rejection. My friend’s visa is valid from April 3 2019 until July 3, 2021 (3 months more than my friend rejected).
According to JASSO, there are 300,000 foreign students in Japan and 90,000 of them are enrolled at language schools. By law, their maximum period of stay is up to 2 years for life and they are usually granted visas of 1 year renewable. Other categories of students are also never granted more than 2 years. It seems that more than 50% of foreign students in Japan have Visa of 2 years of less. In essence, Rakuten Mobile seems to have established a new rule to deny service to most foreigners that hold a student visa.
That information can be verified at any Rakuten Branch in Japan but it is not disclosed online anywhere! I didn’t ask for the written rules. It seems that it could be verified at any branch since is a nationwide ban on most foreign students. Interestingly, from October 2019 Rakuten will be a full Mobile Network Operator (MNO) at the same category as AU, Softbank and Docomo. My friends were not asking for installments to buy a new cellphone. They just wished to have a 3 Gb plan that according to Rakuten Mobile can be cancelled after 12 months without any fee . Anyways, Rakuten Mobile seems to be consistent in their rejection of foreigners.
I notified the Embassy of Japan in Venezuela (my native country) and they wished to investigate too. I hope the information could be useful to improve the situation. I regret that I didn’t ask the names of the employees and my friends seem to feel discriminated and disappointed as to go back to the stores! Their first experience in Japan in just few days after arriving! That reminds me of the United Nations Report written by Doudou Diène in 2006:
“The Special Rapporteur concluded that there is racial discrimination and xenophobia in Japan… The manifestations of such discrimination are first of all of a social and economic nature. All surveys show that minorities live in a situation of marginalization in their access to education, employment, health, housing, etc. Secondly, the discrimination is of a political nature: the national minorities are invisible in State institutions.”
Thanks for your attention and hard work! I always recommend your latest book and articles!
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