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  • Discussion: Softbank’s policy towards NJ customers re new iPhone

    Posted by Dr. ARUDOU, Debito on July 20th, 2008

    Handbook for Newcomers, Migrants, and Immigrants to Japan\Foreign Residents and Naturalized Citizens Association forming NGO\「ジャパニーズ・オンリー 小樽入浴拒否問題と人種差別」(明石書店)JAPANESE ONLY:  The Otaru Hot Springs Case and Racial Discrimination in Japan

    Hi Blog.  This issue has been brought up on other blogs (most notably Japan Probe), so I thought I need not duplicate it on Debito.org (I try to limit myself to one blog entry per day).  But recently I received through the FRANCA Japan list a series of thoughtful discussions on the iPhone that are good enough to reprint here.  Anonymized.  And note that Softbank already seems to have reacted to the situation.  Arudou Debito

    ================================
    From: Writer A
    Subject: [FRANCA] Yodabashi Akiba Restricts iPhone 3G Sales To Foreigners
    Date: July 17, 2008 8:14:32 PM JST
    To: francajapan@yahoogroups.com

    Where else but Japan would one find a huge electronics retailer, located in a tourist center, that refuses to sell to certain foreigners a phone marketed simultaneously around the world, designed by an American company and distributed by a firm headed by a [naturalized] Zainichi Korean?

    Yodabashi Akiba (YA), the largest store of the Yodobashi Camera electronics retailer chain, is located in Akihabara, the tourist center that is Ground Zero for anime nerds (otaku). On any given day, one is likely to find Western and Chinese customers shopping at YA, in addition to Japanese customers. Like any cell phone retailer that wants to remain in business. YA has a huge display for Apple’s 3G iPhone, which went on sale in Japan on July 11 and promptly sold out at YA.

    But if a foreigner wished to buy an Apple 3G iPhone at YA, that foreigner would find that YAs policy is to refuse to sell a phone to a person with an authorized stay of less than 90 days, and refuses to allow a sale on the installment plan to foreigners with less than 16 months of authorized stay.

    Check the Files section of this Group for a scan of the offending policy document (original Japanese).

    Softbank itself does not mention any such restrictions in its iPhone 3G contract terms

    http://broadband.mb.softbank.jp/mb/legal/articles/pdf/3g_002.pdf

    and Softbank was the first cell phone provider to take the attitude that if a foreigner is using a credit card, Softbank does not care about the length of stay (because the credit card issuer guarantees payment to Softbank). So, this appears to be a YA policy.

    Now, some apologists will offer the following defenses:

    1. YA is worried about not being paid by short-stay foreigners: wrong, YA is paid by the credit card company. Softbank already accepts credit cards, and can cut off service if a customer fails to pay. Why is a foreigner with 15 months 29 days of stay a poor credit risk while one with 16 months is not a credit risk?

    2. YA is going out of its way help misguided foreigners who might buy a cell phone in Japan only to find it does not work outside of Japan: wrong, the iPhone 3G is designed to work with most 3G systems around the world, and in fact can work as a wireless terminal without any 3G system at all. The phone is multilingual (Japanese-English-Chinese- whatever) out of the box.

    3. Apple/Softbank are trying to prevent iPhone 3G units from being taken out of Japan and unlocked (made useable with carriers other than Softbank): Wrong, only YA has this policy, and if anyone is going to buy up hundreds of iPhone 3G units and sell them abroad, it is going to be a yakuza or a snakehead with access to someone who has the proper credentials.

    4. The police made them do it: well, the bigotry of Japanese cops is unlimited, but why can a foreigner show a Japanese health insurance card (no photo, certainly no visa info) or a Japanese driver’s license (no visa info) and be exempt from the restrictions on purchase/ installment payment?

    One has to wonder about Japan’s future when flagship stores in major tourist areas go out of their way to discriminate against foreign customers, without any business or logical reason.

    In the meantime, one can always boycott YA. Bic Camera has much better service, Yamada Denki is cheaper, and Best Denki has better parking !
    ================================

    From: Writer B

    Check the Files section of this Group for a scan of the offending policy document (original Japanese).

     

     

     

    The document says nothing about restrictions on foreigners. It talks about restrictions on people using a foreigners registration card as their means of identification. Being a foreigner does not mean that your foreigner registration card is your only means of identification. Just show your driver’s license or your health insurance card instead.

    BTW, it isn’t Yodobashi specifically; this is very much a Softbank policy. Always has been. The blogosphere has been talking about this for the past week, because of the iPhone, but I remember this from when I first switched to Softbank a couple years ago. I showed my alien registration, it was going to be a problem, so I showed my drivers license instead.

    ================================

    From: Writer C

    I would wait a little on this one. They just announced this morning that all the major cellphone companies are going to implement new, tougher rules on registering phones. The police will be involved, and people will have to provide ID (driving licences were mentioned) and possibly have it copied by the companies. People refusing would be denied contracts, and ‘suspicious’ people refusing would be reported to the police.

    And this will affect everyone. How they deal with non-Japanese, and non-residents, within this, remains to be seen.

    ================================

    From: Writer A

    To the posters on the subject:

    True, the YA document I discussed and posted does not say foreigners cannot buy an iPhone 3G. It does say that NJ with a stay of less than 91 days cannot buy an iPhone 3G. These very short-term NJ most likely won’t have a Japanese driver’s license or health insurance card. NJs who do have a Japanese driver’s license or health card, as I pointed out, can show either and get around the permitted stay restriction (one hopes), but many NJs with a 91 day to 15-month stay will not have either alternate document.

    No, it is not a Softbank policy. It is not a stated policy and it is not an actual policy. I posted the stated policy (the hyperlink to the contract), and it mentions nothing about period of stay. Neither does any official Softbank literature on the iPhone 3G. It is not an unofficial Softbank policy either: I have used Softbank for many years and have never once been asked for a “gaijin card”. I have been asked for other ID and was able to satisfy the ID requirement by producing an official Japanese document that does not include my visa status. My understanding is that official iPhone 3G registration in every country requires some kind of proof of identity, but Japan is the only instance I have heard of in which proof of visa status is required. Indeed, in most countries phone companies love foreigners with adequate credit because they make long international telephone calls to their foreign homes.

    Why do you think the policy appears in tiny letters at the bottom of a photocopied handout at YA? Perhaps because YA knows the policy is offensive and arbitrary. You won’t find a similar document at your local Softbank shop: the white Softbank iPhone 3G brochure has nothing restricting contracts to persons of a certain permitted stay.

    Did [Writer B] switch from DoCoMo to Softbank, and is perhaps melding Softbank into the trauma of dealing with DoCoMo? DoCoMo is infamously NJ-unfriendly. It is the spawn of NTT, the phone company that would not hook up NJ to black rotary line telephones in the days when that is what a telephone meant.

    Another poster mentioned that the police want to have tougher proof of identity requirements for registering cell phones. Actually, the Japanese police have a multi-year history of trying to tie cell phones more conclusively to individuals. The police are the reason one can no longer anonymously purchase a prepaid cell phone in Japan. The police are trying to make it a crime to sell a SIM (telephone number ID chip) from another phone in Japan. The reason is simple: yakuza use untraceable or stolen cell phones for defrauding people. A recent factoid states that Japan is victim to $1 million per day in telephone fraud (the frauds are quite varied, and change frequently, but many of the frauds are perpetrated against the elderly). The yakuza use the phones for a blitz of fraudulent calls, then throw away the phones– and the police can’t find out who is behind the frauds. By itself, requesting positive ID when one registers a cell phone is, I think, NJ-neutral. However, the police in Japan always end up requesting ID from NJ well beyond what is adequate to establish identity, and always end up backing down on the rigor of ID from Japanese citizens. Many of the forms of ID a Japanese can present to satisfy the policy have no photograph, no counterfeiting security, no standard format and are easy to turn out flawlessly with a good computer printer.

    If YA has some legitimate business concern, there are ways to satisfy the concern without discriminating against NJ.

    “Sunlight is the best disinfectant.”

    Go blog it, Debito!

    ================================

     From: Writer B

    No, it is not a Softbank policy. It is not a stated policy and it is not an actual policy.

     

     

     

    Well, here is Softbank’s actual policy from Softbank’s official web page:

    http://mb.softbank.jp/mb/campaign/3G/procedure/

    This is what lists the documents required to sign up for 3G service. There are many choices, one choice of which is “foreign registration card plus foreign passport”. If you choose that option, you may sign up for Softbank provided that you are not on a 90-day visa.

    Now, there are actually two things at play here: The ability to sign up for 3G service and the ability to buy an iPhone on installments. If you pass the first thing, and you are willing to fork over the unsubsidized cash price for an iPhone 3G (70,000-80,000 yen depending on which model), then you have no problems.

    But this is where the 3-15-month period of stay thing comes in:

    Oh, hmm, Softbank has deleted the document since I saw it a few days ago:

    http://www.japanprobe.com/?p=5106

    The link that Japanprobe linked to before gave limitations as to who would purchase a phone on installments rather than upfront. It’s gone now. It was a page on Softbank’s official site, however.

    To be perfectly honest, I think that their requirements are fair: To have service, all you have to do is prove that you live in Japan. If you want to buy a phone on installments (ie, take out credit), you should prove that you intend to pay back that loan, either by proving that you’re integrated enough in society that you have a driving license or health insurance, or at least have a visa that is long enough to cover the period of the loan. If you don’t, you don’t have to buy the phone on installments — you can buy it up front if you like.

    But whether or not you think that’s fair, the point is you are barking up the wrong tree. It is very definitely Softbank that you are angry at, not Yodobashi. the fact that I (and many others) saw those requirements on Softbank’s website means that, at least as of a week ago, those were Softbank’s policies. I assume that they still are and that Softbank took away the link because people were complaining. But even if not, depending on the timing of when Yodobashi printed up their flyers, it is almost certain that it was because of Softbank’s directions.

    Did [Writer B] switch from DoCoMo to Softbank, and is perhaps melding Softbank into the trauma of dealing with DoCoMo?

     

     

     

    I did switch from DoCoMo, but your insinuation that I don’t know the difference between phone companies is, quite frankly, insulting.

    DoCoMo is infamously NJ-unfriendly.

     

     

     

    Maybe.. I never had a problem with them, though I understand that a lot of people have, so I am probably in the minority.

    ================================

    ENDS.  COMMENTS?

    43 Responses to “Discussion: Softbank’s policy towards NJ customers re new iPhone”

    1. Joe Jones Says:

      Just to be clear, the problem doesn’t just affect temporary visitors. It affects anyone whose period of stay ends within 90 days.

      I just got a new contract with eMobile last month. I am currently in Japan on a one-year work permit which expires in September (I’m in the process of renewing it now). The eMobile rep nearly refused to let me have the phone until his supervisor chimed in that paying by credit card would get around the 90-day rule.

      I can kind of understand not extending a contract to temporary visitors, but 90 days for everyone is a really arbitrary cutoff… especially considering that one cannot renew a landing permit 90 days prior to expiration, so there would be a certain period when it would unavoidably be impossible for many NJs to get a contract.

      The installment plan issue is just silly. A permanent resident (or, for that matter, a Japanese national) can pack up and leave Japan tomorrow and never be heard from again. A person whose visa expires tomorrow can renew it tomorrow and keep renewing it indefinitely. Just because someone is permitted to stay does not necessarily mean that they are going to stay, and visa cutoff is not really relevant to anything except how much money the person has to give the GOJ to keep themselves legal.

    2. DR Says:

      I am a firm believer in market driven economics, with minimal government interference, except to protect consumers from scam artists. I don’t need what these folks below are peddling right now, but, in light of the details outlined above, I’d sure consider it. Needless to say “CAVEAT EMPTOR!”
      “Here it is an international electronics supplier in in China. Make of it what you will, but they sure as heck won’t discriminate against you. I can’t vouch for their service, or if you’ll ever get your order intact, but a respected engineer friend sent me this as follows:
      “They are the highest quality and the lowest prices. ‘We offer digital products: Motorcycles,TVs, Notebooks, phones. PSP, projectors, GPS, DVD, DV, DC, MP3/4 and so on, which are of world famous brands, such as Sony, IBM, PHILIPS, NOKIA, DELL and so on. If you like this, don’t miss it!!!
      Welcome to see our website : http://www.mn8866.com
      and you can contact with us :
      MSN: mn8866@hotmail.com
      E-mail : ynece2008@yahoo.com.cn

      Sorry, Debito, I’m not trying to use your site to advertise “companies” in China selling “goods” real or otherwise, nor am I advocating anything illegal. But, sometimes rules are unjust, and circumventing them by “alternative thinking” is warranted. Remember, the signatories to the Declaration of Independence were considered treasonous traitors in London! Heroes in the New World. Which is where folks like you come in…..

    3. jim Says:

      who gave the phone companies the power and the right for them to pick and choose which people that they can sell a phone too? this is complete madness and nonsense. i think that we should all plan a protest outside this store in akihabara. we need to be more united and stage a planned protest outside all softbank shops in all the large cities in japan. the japanese phone companies are also planning to pass a law to stop all prepaid phones by next year, because they think that gaijin use them in crimes over here, give me a break….

    4. Randy Says:

      Would you give your credit card number to a business running hotmail and yahoo accounts for email?

    5. Alex Says:

      Just one thing – is everyone clear on the way the iphone is being sold?

      The actual price is between $600 and $800 and the user is being made to pay in installments every month with Softbank subsidizing a certain amount of this cost. It therefore makes perfect sense for the phone company to pick and choose who they let use this plan. And many Japanese fail the check that Softbank and Docomo perform before selling phones in this way. Credit is obviously the biggest factor for Japanese. But I think it is perfectly acceptable that temporary visitors should also be barred from buying a phone in this way.

      For non-temporary visitors, a permanent address and a place of employment in the country should be enough information though. Softbank should not be talking about “period of stay” – that is private information and it is not in their domain.

    6. JBAR Says:

      Regarding Softbank’s actual printed, established policies, “w00kie” has posted the information and its reference on his blog: http://w00kie.com/2008/07/11/special-rules-for-gaijin-buying-an-iphone/
      where he refers to this document:
      http://broadband.mb.softbank.jp/mb/iphone/pdf/i_attention.pdf

      First of all, I can’t find how this meshes with the option of using other forms of ID which would not link you to being a “foreigner” in any way, such as a Japanese Driver’s License. I cannot find official, printed rules anywhere that specifically says “if you are not a Japanese national your only choice of identification to start an account can be your foreigner card and passport”. And that’s just in the realm of actual, printed policy. Unfortunately, I’ve never gotten the JDL, so I have never had the option of pushing this point.

      In actual reality, on 7/11, on the day of the release of the iPhone, I was lucky enough to find a little shop hidden away where they had an iPhone left for sale, and proceeded to switch my number from AU to Softbank and go through the purchase process of the iPhone, becoming a Softbank customer. She had me go through the checklist of technical requirements and other little warnings, called AU to transfer my number and then put me on the phone with them to confirm it, and then gave me a little tag with a time range, asking me to come back in 45 minutes or so. When I came back, she told me that Softbank would not approve me for the installment payment plan on the iPhone. When I asked why, she said that Softbank headquarters uses their own criteria for judging applicants and will not divulge, even to her, what that criteria is. Having no other choice (especially since she’d already had me cancel my AU service right there on the spot!), I accepted the fate of paying close to 90,000 yen up front — the entire cost of the phone, unsubsidized. She assured me that the difference (about 50,000 yen) would come back to me in the form of monthly discounts (about 2000 yen per month for 24 months).

      Fast forward a couple days, and I discover w00kie’s blog specifically stating — according to Softbank’s own publication — the criteria for foreigner people (I suppose, since it’s not explicitly stated, and Japanese nationals don’t have visas) regarding your visa. Since I just renewed my 3 year visa just 2 months ago, I have about 34 months remaining on my visa, which is the best qualification according to their printed criteria. Regardless, I had been charged the full price up front, having been cited “unknown” criteria for my disqualification. What’s worse, I found a thread on the Apple Discussion forums regarding this (which I very fortunately made a PDF printout of), and I made a post referring to w00kie’s post about Softbank’s discriminatory policies, and the next time I checked the thread a few hours later, the entire thread had vanished, replaced by the message “Error: you do not have permission to view the requested forum or category.” (I have both screenshots for anyone interested).

      I have two questions for you activists…
      1) Is it actually legal for them to restrict or refuse customers without explicitly informing them of the criteria for their refusal… AND/OR Is it legal for them to not publish all the criteria by which they *may* judge their customers.
      2) Are there really NO investigative journalists in Japan who will use hidden cameras to expose things like this, like they do on such television programs in the states? Even if the major networks don’t have the guts or desire to do it, all it would take is an extremely well-laid plan, some hidden cameras, youtube, and maybe the help of some major US news outlets like the NY Times, etc. Is this really so impossible?

      –Thanks for writing this up. I will let my journalist friends know about this. I doubt the domestic vernacular press will give a toss. However, the expat press just might. Let’s give it a try. Debito

    7. debito Says:

      JUST SENT THIS OUT TO MY REPORTERS’ LISTS. DEBITO

      From: Arudou Debito
      Subject: Softbank iPhone refusing/charging NJ customers more based upon visa validity

      Hello Reporters. Just blogged this today. Please make sure you read the reader comment at the bottom as well, as it demonstrates there may be something odd happening with Softbank (formerly the most NJ-friendly cellphone operator in Japan–it’s even run by former NJ Son Masayoshi) regarding sales of its iPhones:

      ///////////////////////////////////////////////////////////

      Discussion: Softbank’s policy towards NJ customers re new iPhone (excerpt)
      http://www.debito.org/?p=1835
      Posted by debito on July 20th, 2008

      Hi Blog. This issue has been brought up on other blogs (most notably Japan Probe, http://www.japanprobe.com/?p=5106), so I thought I need not duplicate it on Debito.org (I try to limit myself to one blog entry per day). But recently I received through the FRANCA Japan list a series of thoughtful discussions on the iPhone that are good enough to reprint here. Anonymized.

      And note that Softbank already seems to have reacted to the situation, although apparently not in a more accommodating way:

      ================================
      From: Writer A
      Subject: [FRANCA] Yodabashi Akiba Restricts iPhone 3G Sales To Foreigners
      Date: July 17, 2008 8:14:32 PM JST
      To: francajapan@yahoogroups.com

      Where else but Japan would one find a huge electronics retailer, located in a tourist center, that refuses to sell to certain foreigners a phone marketed simultaneously around the world, designed by an American company and distributed by a firm headed by a Zainichi Korean?

      Yodabashi Akiba (YA), the largest store of the Yodobashi Camera electronics retailer chain, is located in Akihabara, the tourist center that is Ground Zero for anime nerds (otaku). On any given day, one is likely to find Western and Chinese customers shopping at YA, in addition to Japanese customers. Like any cell phone retailer that wants to remain in business. YA has a huge display for Apple’s 3G iPhone, which went on sale in Japan on July 11 and promptly sold out at YA.

      But if a foreigner wished to buy an Apple 3G iPhone at YA, that foreigner would find that YAs policy is to refuse to sell a phone to a person with an authorized stay of less than 90 days, and refuses to allow a sale on the installment plan to foreigners with less than 16 months of authorized stay.

      READ FULL DISCUSSION AT
      http://www.debito.org/?p=1835
      ================================

      Debito here: Again, this is not the first time a cellphone operator has a different pricing structure based upon nationality (see Docomo’s Gaijin Deposit system here, now abandoned after protests which I authored for the Japan Times Aug 29, 2002)
      http://www.debito.org/TheCommunity/NTTdocomotariff.html

      Softbank, however, is defacto acting as an agent of Immigration, deciding validity of customer based upon validity of visa (i.e. number of months left on visa, which they are actively checking).

      ONE BLOG COMMENTER OF NOTE follows, which indicates that visa validity may not in fact be the issue after all:
      (I will give contact details of author after direct journalist inquiries to debito@debito.org):

      ================================
      July 21, 2008
      From: JBAR

      Regarding Softbank’s actual printed, established policies, “w00kie” has posted the information and its reference on his blog: http://w00kie.com/2008/07/11/special-rules-for-gaijin-buying-an-iphone/
      where he refers to this document:
      http://broadband.mb.softbank.jp/mb/iphone/pdf/i_attention.pdf

      First of all, I can’t find how this meshes with the option of using other forms of ID which would not link you to being a “foreigner” in any way, such as a Japanese Driver’s License. I cannot find official, printed rules anywhere that specifically says “if you are not a Japanese national your only choice of identification to start an account can be your foreigner card and passport”. And that’s just in the realm of actual, printed policy. Unfortunately, I’ve never gotten the JDL, so I have never had the option of pushing this point.

      In actual reality, on 7/11, on the day of the release of the iPhone, I was lucky enough to find a little shop hidden away where they had an iPhone left for sale, and proceeded to switch my number from AU to Softbank and go through the purchase process of the iPhone, becoming a Softbank customer. She had me go through the checklist of technical requirements and other little warnings, called AU to transfer my number and then put me on the phone with them to confirm it, and then gave me a little tag with a time range, asking me to come back in 45 minutes or so. When I came back, she told me that Softbank would not approve me for the installment payment plan on the iPhone. When I asked why, she said that Softbank headquarters uses their own criteria for judging applicants and will not divulge, even to her, what that criteria is. Having no other choice (especially since she’d already had me cancel my AU service right there on the spot!), I accepted the fate of paying close to 90,000 yen up front–the entire cost of the phone, unsubsidized. She assured me that the difference (about 50,000 yen) would come back to me in the form of monthly discounts (about 2000 yen per month for 24 months).

      Fast forward a couple days, and I discover w00kie’s blog specifically stating — according to Softbank’s own publication — the criteria for foreigner people (I suppose, since it’s not explicitly stated, and Japanese nationals don’t have visas) regarding your visa. Since I just renewed my 3 year visa just 2 months ago, I have about 34 months remaining on my visa, which is the best qualification according to their printed criteria. Regardless, I had been charged the full price up front, having been cited “unknown” criteria for my disqualification. What’s worse, I found a thread on the Apple Discussion forums regarding this (which I very fortunately made a PDF printout of), and I made a post referring to w00kie’s post about Softbank’s discriminatory policies, and the next time I checked the thread a few hours later, the entire thread had vanished, replaced by the message “Error: you do not have permission to view the requested forum or category.” (I have both screenshots for anyone interested).

      I have two questions for you activists…

      1) Is it actually legal for them to restrict or refuse customers without explicitly informing them of the criteria for their refusal– AND/OR Is it legal for them to not publish all the criteria by which they *may* judge their customers.

      2) Are there really NO investigative journalists in Japan who will use hidden cameras to expose things like this, like they do on such television programs in the states? Even if the major networks don’t have the guts or desire to do it, all it would take is an extremely well-laid plan, some hidden cameras, youtube, and maybe the help of some major US news outlets like the NY Times, etc. Is this really so impossible?
      ================================

      Hence I’m contacting you journalists. I think you might want to look into it. Debito
      ENDS

    8. John Says:

      My wife on my behalf has been working up the phone chain with SoftBank trying to get a direct response as to how SoftBank can be requiring foreigners to show an alien registration card, passport, and a credit card (what they asked from me) in attempting to get an iPhone. It is my understanding that SoftBank, by law, cannot require foreigners to show a passport, as a requirement for service.

      If they want a credit card as backup (which would insure payment) then there is no need, beyond other reasons) for any issue of length of visa in determining wether you get the same deal as a Japanese person or wether you have to pay for the phone, in full, up front.

      I have also sent e-mail to SoftBank and Apple regarding this matter.

      –Well done. Keep asking them the questions and demand the clarifications. I think Japanese businesses are somehow convinced that NJ customers are either not plentiful enough to complain, or don’t have the chutzpah to do so. And we keep proving them wrong.

    9. jim Says:

      this game by softbank is to give the foreignor that is trying to buy there phone the hardest time possible, and they are doing everything in there power to prevent the foreignor from purchaseing these new 3g ipones. the name of there game is called COMPANY POLICY! this is the way that they get around having to give me and you a valid reason for denial, see they dont have to when they simply say COMPANY RULE! OR COMPANY SYSTEM! when they say this to you, then this really means there in-house phone discrimination..for example its the same thing when you apply for a japanese credit card and then the company rejects your application and says that you were denied because of are COMPANY CRITERIA SYSTEM, again this is another form of discrimination because they will never tell you the reason why you were denied, because if they did tell you the real reason then it would be 1-800-LAWSUIT-TIME…..

    10. AWK Says:

      I went to Softbank. No problem at all. Maybe because I have been using them very long time (7years J-phone, Vodafone and now Softbank) and I`m PR. What they explained me was fees and continuation of payment for my current mobile which will be finished 1 year later (24months contract). So, iot would be 1260yen for iPhone + 1280yen for my phone + 980yen for white plan + the worst 5820yen (? about 6000) for internet which one MUST pay, so iPhone deal is not good. It would cost me 10,000 a month basic + for calling. THANK YOU but not need. It is not possible not to have included “skyhodai”. Even a girl in the shop told me that many people give up because of this.

    11. Randy Says:

      `And many Japanese fail the check that Softbank and Docomo perform before selling phones in this way. Credit is obviously the biggest factor for Japanese. But I think it is perfectly acceptable that temporary visitors should also be barred from buying a phone in this way.`

      Before people start going nuts about lawsuits, should consider Alex`s post.

      The Iphone is all about locking you into a long term contract. I know people in the USA who had to get their parents to get the phones because they had no credit card and no credit history. In the States, they won`t give you an Iphone on your word either. Short term foreigners without a credit card will likely have no or inadequate credit history and won`t be able to get an Ipone, plain and simple.

      Check this out -

      http://forums.ilounge.com/showthread.php?t=198499

      This one suggests a potential nightmare getting a bank account / phone contract in the UK -

      http://forums.macrumors.com/showthread.php?t=270786

      I know people who have had this problem.

      At best, they will ask for a deposit, at worst, they will turn you down.

      I`m not sure that this is really a case of discrimination. In the USA, I could not get an internet account one time because of a computer error that suggested that I have no credit history. No credit history, no credit card, no deal. Japan is not a credit card society so they do the check in their own way. Nobody who is on PR or a long term visa is going to have a lot of trouble to get an Iphone if you meet the criteria.

      PS – Here is where Jim or Carl jumps in to accuse me of posting on every new thread to stick up for Japan becasue I`m part of `Team Japan` or whatever. Guys, if it wasn`t for the venom in your posts, I wouldn`t even be posting.

    12. Randy Says:

      Lots of posts here throwing around terms like NJ, foreigner, gaijin, gaikokujin, etc. but I think that we have to stop for a second an think about exactly who is being discriminated against in this case.

      Not NJ or gaikokujin.

      For starters, the president of Softbank is a NJ. It is pretty funny to talk about `us` vs. `Japanese companies` in this case as that individual represents Japan`s biggest ever NJ financial success story.

      The policy DOES, however, discriminate – against short timers.

      PR holders and citizens of all colors and creeds are okay, as are people with long-term visas. Meanwhile, a Japanese who takes American citizenship and comes back to Japan as a visitor, along with short timers of all descriptions, are apparently out of luck.

      This has to do with the nature of the contact — you can`t rent property (in Japan or other places that I know) on a one year contract if you are only going to be in the country for 2 more months. Why would Softbank take a $300-$400 (30,000-40,000) loss on the phone if they are not even sure that you will be around? The deal is that they sell you the phone at a loss and make it back later on the payments. If people are not going to be in the country for the term – it is other Softbank customers, including legions of NJ, who will take the hit as they raise prices to make up for losses.

      Yes, Japanese can also dump the contract and jet overseas, but they will face a lifetime of bad credit in their country of citizenship. Shorttimers of all kinds who go home and dump the contract won`t have this problem.

      Short timers face all kinds of discrimination (note – different than racism) – they won`t give you a credit card, you may not be able to open a bank accout, people won`t rent you property – and this is not unique to Japan. It is simply a contract problem.

      –Good points. Could you please tell us more about how shorttimers who dump their contracts won’t have bad credit ratings in their country of citizenship? Don’t credit ratings follow you around?

      PS: Quick correction for the record: Softbank Prez Son Masayoshi is a naturalized Japanese, no longer an NJ.

    13. Randy Says:

      Oh, I thought that NJ was `non-Japanese` in an ethnic sense. Its funny – he`s obviously not an ethnic Japanese, but not a gaikokujin, special permenant resident, etc. What do we call people like this? This gets really complex….

      On the issue of bad credit ratings not following you around – they don`t. For example, I`m `randi` in katakana in most of the Japanese documents that I have signed – I only remember writing katakana for my bank account, for example. Not going to be easy to identify me as that same Randy in the USA. I have had a credit check stateside that did not reveal ANY information from the 2 years that I lived in another country (not Japan). Credit checks are really only a guess – I know a guy whose credit record says that he defaulted on a $120,000 mortgage – when he was FOUR YEARS OLD. They make mistakes like this all the time.

      Bunch of discussions online that suggest that credit is really country specific – this one matches my experience.

      http://ask.metafilter.com/24789/Credit-in-foreign-countries

      Basically, you have a different credit rating in each country – countries like Canada and the US may be able to check on the credit ratings of citizens of the other but this apparently can`t be done for the US and Japan (for US citizens in Japan or Japanese citizens in the US).

      In any case, I want to develop my point that some discrimination is `okay`.

      We discriminate by not letting visitors vote in our elections. That would be nuts.

      We discriminate by not letting 12 year olds drive. that would be nuts.

      We discriminate by not letting short term residents get credit cards. This goes for eveywhere becasue it would be just plain nuts.

      Softbank has chosen to discriminate becuse they are taking a $500 hit on those phones with the understanding that they will get it back from you later. They are a business and this makes better than good business sense. Just think of it – if just 500 people (Japanese, NJ, whatever) run off on their contracts, they are taking a $250,000 loss. Yes, that is a quarter of a million.

      If we are calling for solidarity, we should consider consumer solidarity as well. Softbank will pass any losses on to me, you, Debito, any customer.

      Let`s face it, given those credit issues that I discussed above, lots of people run off on debt in countries that they don`t have a permenant connection to or are planning on leaving for good.

      I know LOTS of Japanese who lived in the States and ran off any ANY debt that they could when going home. This is by no means a Japanese thing though. Let`s be honest with ourselves. I was in a dorm with 100 other foreigners in Japan and I`d say that 80 left the country with unpaid debt. Some were BRAGGING about it. Hell, I left Japan one time with an unpaid newspaper bill. I forgot to pay it, but have to confess that when I came back to Japan, I didn`t go looking to pay it, I just supscribed to the same newspaper again. Ditto for two months of unpaid NHK fees. When I came back to Japan, I got a credit card and bank loan no problem – it`s like I`m not even the same Randy. And let`s face another fact – some people reading this post are already smirking about being able to skip on bills with no consequences (don`t do it, BTW).

      In order to prevent people from doing this, credit checks and other requirements are put into place. You may be out of luck in Japan, USA, UK, wherever.

      Now if Softbank were saying `sorry, you`re not getting an IPhone because you are black` I`d be angry as hell. That is not what they are saying at all, however. They are saying that – if we have no way to hold the threat of bad credit over you (as credit does not carry between countries) and we can see no evidence that you will be in the country to fulfill the terms of the contract, we will reserve the right to not take a $500 loss selling the phone to you. This makes perfect sense. I`m 100% in favor of American companies protecting themselves in this way and it goes for Japanese companies as well.

    14. Guillaume Says:

      To my understanding, it is impossible to pay by cash and strongly recommended to pay by credit card. In this case, payments are insured by the credit card company. It is much more secure for Softbank to ask customers to use credit card, since they know they will be paid one way or another, even if the customers flies away. This doesn’t make any sense to ban foreigners from subsidized pricing, and it probably indicates some xenophobic tendancies in the establishment of the company more than a real business concern.

    15. Randy Says:

      Xenophobia? Well, I guess it is pretty selective – foreigners with PR are okay, so are foreigners on long term visas, so, apparently are foreigners willing to just pay 100,000 yen or so for the thing. Citizen foreigners, zainichi, etc. are all okay as well. So is there a special xenophobia reserved for short-timers? Or is it just concern about contracts, plain and simple?

      `In this case, payments are insured by the credit card company.`

      Nope. No way. A customer can pay down the balance of a credit card at any time and cancel or if they run up their max amount, any further payments will be refused. A credit card company won`t pay two years of phone fees to Softbank just becasue you gave them a number that was valid at the time you got the IPhone.

      Think about how this impacts someone trying to charge a payment every month – they get screwed if there is a problem with the account. If it was, say, an adult site on the net or something, they would just close your account. For the Iphone, Softbank just plain takes the loss on the handset that they were hoping to reap on the contract.

      For reasons like this, credit cards are not trusted in Japan like they are in, say, the United States where the things grow on trees (and are helping to screw up the economy).

      In any case, it does not seem like Softbank is causing problem for short-term foreign customers on any items aside from the one that they are taking a huge loss on and relying on locking people into long-term contracts. From the original post, it seems that they have no problem with you if you will fork over the close to 100,000 for the handset (that takes care of their loss).

      Analogy – would you lend 50,000 yen to someone you have just met who you know is set to leave Japan in 2 months?

      –Point of order. “Citizen foreigner” is a contradiction. Naturalized Japanese are Japanese. The end.

      But this is a tangent. Continue with the discussion about iPhone. Don’t forget to address the issue of people with longer-term visas which are close to expiry or are in the process of being renewed. Thus it is not always clear that people are “set to leave” just by looking at the time remaining on their visa. Thanks.

    16. jjrs Says:

      There is a very simple, very logical, very non-discriminatory reason not to sell iphones to people who do not reside in Japan.

      The iphone is subsidized to the tune of about 2/3 of its price by Softbank, under the strategy that Softbank will make the money back once people sign up for a contract.

      If people buy iphones in Japan and take off, they are SCREWED, and in the hole for $400 per person.

      Similar things are being done elsewhere by iphone carriers all over the world.

    17. Randy Says:

      `Point of order. “Citizen foreigner” is a contradiction. Naturalized Japanese are Japanese. The end.`

      True, but as far as I can tell, there is no set way here of describing someone who is Japanese but not ethnically Japanese – the problem comes from the same word being used for citizenship and ehtnicity (both Japanese). What I meant was a non-ethnic Japanese Japanese citizen (but don`t want to type that out each time).

      Re: Jjrs – some people are able to see why this whole thing makes perfect business sense and is, in fact, common to the way that the Iphone is being sold in many countries.

      I`m not sure about why I should be accused of `a tangent`. I think that the issue of credit cards is clearly relevant to the IPhone discussion. Guillaume chymed in to suggest that `foreigners` are being prevented from getting the Iphone. Not true – only people with limited stays.

      From the point of view of Softbank – people with visas that are close to expiry or in the process of being renewed will be perfectly elegable when their visa is renewed. This may be an inconvience, but it should not be described as `xenophobia`. It is, as I mentioned above, an issue of discrimaintion against people with limited stays – in a similar fashion, people whose visas are up soon may not be able to rent an apartment or get a credit card – it is all about doubt about ability to fulfill a contract. You will find these doubts in official contexts all over. If people don`t fulfill contracts, it is all consumers in this country that suffer as they get stuck with the bill in the end.

      –You’re beginning to repeat yourself. We got the point in the last paragraph already from previous emails, and nobody is accusing you of “tangenting”. Please read more carefully.

      The question still remains–that everyone who does not have Permanent Residency is defacto here on a “limited stay”, because there is a limitation to their visa. So, following your argument, are you advocating that anyone without PR should not be extended a line of credit (or in this case, a subsidy) because they might leave? Please clarify.

    18. Randy Says:

      Word about the repeats.

      I don`t think that a Softbank contract where they stand to lose money should be treated differently than a lease or a credit card application. People on short term stays get treated differently based on a vareity of factors. If a contract is going to be for 2 years, I think that it is quite reasonable to request a lot of information and some guarentees (such as a reasonable amount of time left on your stay). If not, people are free to buy the phone without asking Softbank to pick up half the tab. In short, my opinion is that this is a pain but racism or xenophobia it is not.

      –The funny thing is, the only person who has used the word “racism” in this discussion is you, Randy. (We had another commenter who used the word “xenophobic tendencies”, yes.). Please don’t put words in posters’ mouths.

      Answer the posed question about limited-term visas vs PR for lines of credit?

    19. Randy Says:

      I took racism and xenophobia to be the same thing, sorry.

      On lines of credit – no, I don`t think that people on visa of less than 1 year should be given lines of credit. It would be exceedingly hard to get a line of credit under these circumstances in the United States or other countries that I am familiar with and I think that Japanese companies and banks are well within accepted rules of practice to be stingy with credit because, as I established above, it is very, very hard to trace credit histories across borders so the `ruin your credit history` potential punishment may not apply.

      –Xenophobia and racism the same thing? Consult a dictionary–they’re very different. Please stick to the terms of debate.

      Anyway, thanks for the answer. However, that’s apparently not how Softbank is enforcing it–they’re also including expiry date as a factor, not just overall length. So what of those people whose one-year visa, even after, say, several one-year visa renewals, is close to expiry? Hark back to the treatment of NJ customers as per other comments above in this blog entry (here and here). These are not necessarily “short-termers”, but they’re getting caught up in the backdraft. Do you support this as well?

    20. Randy Says:

      I think that people who are close to the end of a visa-term or on a one year visa should either renew their visas, switch to a different category (ie. 3 year worker), or forget about getting credit or, say, a lease of over 1 year.

      I don`t think that people on 1 year visas should be given credit cards under any circumstances. My stay in another country that I mentioned above was Australia. I applied for a foreign student visa at a bank called NAB. They told me that since my visa was for 1 year, that I had to put down a $5000 deposit for a $5000 credit card limit. I said `no thanks`. I don`t think that this was offensive discrimination – it makes perfect sense – I also think that the Softbank is in the right when they won`t extend what amounts to hundreds of dollars of credit to people whose visa does not meet their risk assesment criteria.

      –I see. So your underlying assumption is that foreigners with the clock winding down on their visa should renew them (even upgrade them to three years–as if that’s a matter of personal choice), because there’s the danger they won’t renew. If only Immigration were so cooperative in most cases to allow the upgrades at will–and allow very early renewal before Softbank’s 90-day limit–so people can get something as basic to life nowadays as a portable phone.

      This is where we’ll part company in this conversation. The underlying presumption is that foreigners are more or less likely to behave a certain way merely based upon 1) how long the visa is, and 2) how long before it expires, all justified by a danger to a company’s bottom line. Kind of like saying those who are around knives a lot are more likely to use them as weapons, so let’s not let sushi chefs near them during the three months of summer when everyone’s hot and bothered. After all, who knows what lurks in the hearts of men…?

      Sorry, can’t agree with the prejudice. And your further evidencing with your experiences as a student in Oz (as opposed to a resident, which is what many people on one-year visas are, even if they can’t buy an iPhone for at least three months out of the year) indicates how blind you are to the issue. If Japan’s visa regime wasn’t quite so strict, we wouldn’t be having this conversation, since longer-term residency would be more easily obtained along with lines of credit. But Softbank (merely the tip of the iceberg when it comes to NJ and credit) acting like an Immigration official in this case is in my view unwarranted. And potentially unlawful. Even unfortunate given Softbank’s history of being comparatively NJ friendly.

      Thanks for the discussion, Randy. But here’s where we agree to disagree. Byeeee. Arudou Debito

    21. Daniel Palmer Says:

      There are laws in Japan surrounding mobile phones… The carriers can’t legally provide a phone to anyone without resident status or such status that has less than 90 days left on it. Something to do with untraceable phones being potentially useful to criminals. It’s also not in the carriers interest to sell heavily subsidised hardware to people that don’t have the potential to create revenue for them. i.e. People that don’t have permission to be in the country.

      You also have to consider that the iPhone will be locked to the carrier that supplied it to you. So the phone is useless to tourists hoping to pickup a cheap phone and take it home.. unless they have the technical ability to unlock it.

    22. jim Says:

      the million dollar question is who gave softbank the right to sell there phones to a foreignor based on the number of months they have in japan, wow talk about big brother. they must have contacted the ministry of justice on how to sell to foreignors, or it could be called the MOJ business tricks 101 for dummies in japan…

    23. Guillaume Says:

      “True, but as far as I can tell, there is no set way here of describing someone who is Japanese but not ethnically Japanese – the problem comes from the same word being used for citizenship and ehtnicity (both Japanese). What I meant was a non-ethnic Japanese Japanese citizen (but don`t want to type that out each time).”

      As far as I’m concerned, there is no “Japanese ethnicity”. There are Japanese citizens and citizens of various other countries, all with various cultural, religious, social backgrounds. It is only a matter of time before dual citizenship is allowed in Japan (it would be suicidal for the country not to recognize the economic and cultural value of its residents with international background).

      Immigration law in Japan is one of the most restrictive among developed countries. Many foreigners are granted short term visas and have very small perspectives of a long term life project in the country. Essentially, most foreign residents are treated as guests, not as residents. In these conditions, how can one expect to apply for a loan, buy a house, or even rent a cell phone? If more people were given the opportunity to become a valuable member of the society (and not merely a guest), for example by granting more PR and improving the language skills of the foreign residents (free culture and language classes paid by government for every foreign resident, like in many European countries), the Softbank controversy would not probably not exist…

    24. jim Says:

      again randy seems to be out of touch with the difficulty of daily life in japan for alot of NJ, or he is in a state of denial..i remember when my wife came to visit me in hawaii before we got married, and she was able to pick-up a cell phone at verizon in waikiki and she was on a 90 tourist visit at the time..do you think that we could do that in osaka, or tokyo..
      NOT!

    25. JBAR Says:

      There is one very simple point that nobody is touching on. My question:
      WHY does Softbank not disclose your reasons for being denied? The very fact that they don’t disclose it can only logically mean that it’s illegal, or at the very least unethical enough to draw bad publicity. In the US, you will always be told why you did not qualify for something which requires a credit check. Softbank would not tell me “You failed the credit check”, etc. They told me that Softbank’s headquarters uses their own criteria for judging applicants and they will not disclose that criteria to anyone, including Softbank representatives OR the people themselves who are getting denied. The reason you have rights in the United States to know the specific reasons why you were declined is to guarantee no discrimination, and allow you pursue happiness by improving whatever qualities or conditions are barring you from getting what you want. This is the only way justice can be served.

      Again I ask — IS IT LEGAL to refuse to tell an applicant why he/she is being denied in Japan?

    26. Randy Says:

      Debito, a visa is a guarentee of a certian period of residence – does not matter if it is student or working. So you don`t understand how international credit works, you don`t apparently know what a visa is, no wonder you`ve got such a tempest in a teacup going here.

      Jim should as his wife to buy an iPhone in Waikiki.

    27. Joe Jones Says:

      Actually, three years ago, I got a Japanese mobile phone on a 90-day tourist visa. Back then it was easy: you could just walk into AU, give them your credit card and get a phone contract. The nutty residency rules came into effect later in 2005, and now the providers don’t even seem to know exactly what they require.

    28. Alex Says:

      Randy appears to have lived here for some time but apparently has no idea about how the visa system works here. Yet he accuses Debito of not knowing what a visa is. Sure if you are married or have a job in a big company you will not have to renew your visa every year. But I know people who have been here for 8 years on 8 1-year visas. Are they planning to leave? No, they make their homes here and are contributing to society. Sure they would like a longer visa but as Debito says that kind of “upgrade” is not something the applicant decides (the process seems arbitrary at best).

      Other than that these people are treated pretty much as regular residents: they have health insurance, they often pay into the Japanese pension system, they obviously pay residents tax. They are also registered at a permanent address with their city or ward. Renewing their visa at the immigration bureau is a yearly formality. Depending on their income and other factors they are perfectly eligible for Japanese credit cards and often have them. They are in no way “temporary visitors”.

      It is easy to say these people should have no right to credit cards or iphones or whatever. Especially if you are not in the same situation. But perhaps you should think about how much of a credit risk they really are compared to students with no income and people with bad credit history. Even from a purely business viewpoint, I would rather gamble on the employed NJ residents. In fact I don’t think it’s much of a gamble at all.

    29. Randy Says:

      Alex – I accuse Debito of not knowing what a visa is becuase he says clearly that a student visa is not a `residence` visa. A 1 year student visa and a 1 year work visa give you a right of residence for…. 1 year. To suggest that the Australian 1 year student visa and any 1 year visa for Japan are different is incorrect.

      For your information, I`ve been in Japan on student, cultural, work, and spousal visas.

      –And all of them are different (or else they wouldn’t use different words, now, would they?). The only basic similarity of many of them is the duration. They affect both your ability to work and to get certain jobs. And some of them allow you to claim different statuses of residence than others. Hence the term “Status of Residence” (zairyuu shikaku). I co-author books on this stuff, FYI.

      Being here as a student is a very different thing than being here on a one-year “Researcher” or “Engineer” visa, for example. And by judging visas also by duration, Softbank is overreaching to deny people who are genuine long-term residents credit.

      Ah well. To each his own, Randy. You’re snug and smug, and why give a fig about others when you’ve got yours? Just make sure you don’t bonk too many people on the head as you pull up the ladder behind you.

    30. debito Says:

      PS to “Randy”:

      I still see you’re posting here today (the 23rd), despite claiming you’ve been “chased off” yesterday:

      Courtesy one of the attack blogs I’m not going to give the dignity of linking to:

      ========================
      Randy Says:
      July 22nd, 2008 at 3:47 pm
      Hi. I`m the Randy mentioned above in Ponta`s post. I have indeed been chased off Debito`s blog while he lets other posters talk about how all foreigners are restricted to slum housing without jumping in. Now he wants to bully Japanese companies into providing free credit to anyone. I`m very glad that he is not having any real impact aside from giving a collection of liars and racists a place to vent.

      ========================

      Hm. I smell troll, if not outright hypocritical liar. I suggest readers don’t bother feeding it. Debito

    31. AWK Says:

      Talking about “screwing”. I think the one thing they screw all of people whether NJ or Japanese on MUST include 6000yen “skyhodai”. It makes iPhone basic fees about 8500yen a month excluding charge for calls made. I asked a girl in Softbank shop not to include, but it wasn`t possible. This is how they make money and this is why they can afford to sell iPhones for 30,000 (continue costumers) or 23,000 (new contracts). I say again: Thank You but not need it. I pay monthly for 2 mobiles with them altogether from 3700yen to max 8000yen. Why should I give them 8500 for such toy.

    32. E Says:

      I tried to buy an Iphone today and gave them my National Health Insurance card and a credit card, which fulfilled their requirements for the 24 month plan. However, I wasn’t able to get the 24 month plan. Why? No reason. They said there was no reason, but that the service center said that I could not have the 24 month plan and that I have to pay 70,000 up front if I want an Iphone. I felt this to be obvious discrimination, because I am not Japanese.

      I have lived in Japan for 4 years, I have a stable job in Japan, and I met their requirements, but no Iphone for me. I’m not going to pay 70,000 upfront to a seemingly racist company. Something needs to be done here!!!

      –Let’s avoid the word “race” here when it’s a matter of nationality…

    33. JBAR Says:

      Debito, you said “Let’s avoid the word “race” here when it’s a matter of nationality…”, but I disagree.

      E seems to have suffered the same issue as me (being denied for qualification, and being refused a reason), but his situation goes even one step further. In my case, they could use my foreign status a way to discriminate because I (stupidly) used my foreign reg. card as one method of ID. But he/she apparently did no such thing. If that’s truly the case, then it definitely is an issue of race, because they have no indicator of his/her nationality to base nationality-discrimination on. Either that, or it’s a matter of both, if they discriminated against his nationality through assumptions he was foreign because of his race.

    34. E Says:

      I have one more thing to say. I will not use the word race.

      Softbank is discriminating against which customers they do business with and refusing to state the reason. Softbank is offering a service for sale to the general public, and they are refusing to sell that service to customers without a reason. It’s the same thing as if you were to go to McDonals and be refused service and not given a reason. A reason must be given for refusal of service. Not giving a reason for refusal of business is proof of discrimination in itself. The media should be aware that Softbank is the kind of company that refuses customers for no reason. I met all the requirements for their service, but was told that I can not have it and that there was no reason. Maybe they didn’t like my hairstyle or my name or my skin color. I don’t know why I was refused service, because they won’t tell me. I have no choice but to go to the media on this one.

    35. AWK Says:

      Not giving reason is in Japanese style. The same goes with credit cards. It may be out of topic but just I want to add something. When credit card (MasterCard which is more foreign friendly comparing to VISA Japan) refused to issue me combination Mizuho cash card with Mastercard I phoned them and asked for reason. They said just I cannot get. I insisted, and asked again strong but “kind of” polite. A Lady was kind enough and told me the reason which was very simple. I quit my job when my application was on process (they called to my work place) A lady told me that they couldn`t issue card because I don`t work anymore. I asked her if I can reapply with work place at home. She said of course. I did so, nobody called me anymore and card has been issued.
      How about phoning Softbank? All of people who was refused 24months service should do this.

    36. Alex Says:

      I have been working in Japan 3 years after being a student for the previous 4. I am an NJ and had no trouble getting the iphone with the 24 month payment process. I did so using my Japanese drivers license and a normal Japanese credit card. As I said earlier in this thread, there are many Japanese who get refused for the iphone. It usually boils down to a credit or employment situation. More specifically if you are even one month behind paying your current phone bill from any provider, you will at least be temporarily on the cell phone provider blacklist.

      AWK is also right. You never ever get a reason. I am surprised he was able to get one over the phone. Well done.

      I would think just a little bit before accusing them of being racist.

    37. KK Says:

      This is all quite interesting to me because I have been a Softbank customer for going on year three. When I signed up for my plan I didn’t have to show them my passport. Only my foreigner registration card and a utility bill or something similar. The guy at the Softbank store didn’t even think twice about the whole affair. In fact, he was so patient with me when setting everything up I was almost convinced they gave their employees some sort of “foreign customer sensitivity training” lol. I went to the store the other day to check out the iPhone and other than the fact they were sold out they eagerly told me all about the silly thing and when I could come back to see if they got a new shipment in.

    38. Misha Says:

      Today I went to softbank to try and use MNP to switch from AU (AU`s selection of global-ready phones is PITIFUL at best). I was told I needed my Gaijin ID, a passport, and a credit card to sign up.

      I pointed to the catalogue and said that it says I have the option of using my bank account, and I would prefer to use that as I have been with AU for the past four years.

      She said `since the month before last, we require ANY FOREIGNER who signs up with softbank to use a credit card for payment only`
      I asked her to confirm this and we waited on hold with Softbank customer service for 45 minutes. The woman confirmed this.

      I have no Japanese CC because they won’t issue me one! And you know why…I have no friggin idea because they won’t tell me, although I have an American one.

      Now I`m stuck with an AU paperweight… I feel more discriminated against than when I was apartment searching…

    39. Drew Says:

      She said `since the month before last, we require ANY FOREIGNER who signs up with softbank to use a credit card for payment only` I asked her to confirm this and we waited on hold with Softbank customer service for 45 minutes. The woman confirmed this.

      Their official policies don’t say this anywhere. I suggest just going to another store and talking to a different staff member.

      You should also try buying a phone at Bic Camera or something like that instead of the actual Softbank shop. As far as I can tell, the electronics stores (as opposed to the Softbank shop itself) seem to sell a lot more phones, and thus probably have a lot more foreigners walk through their doors.

      I still suspect that this was the case of a particular staff member not knowing or misunderstanding the policy…

    40. Ken Yamada Says:

      I went to Softbank’s store with nothing but my national health insurance card. I told them that I didn’t have my utility bill or drivers license with me, and I was able to finance the Iphone for 24 months with no problems. For the record, I an American citizen, but I look Japanese since my parents are both Japanese, and I don’t really have a Japanese drivers license, only an American one, but I didn’t tell them that.

      I have many foreign friends that weren’t able to get the Iphone 24 month plan for whatever reason. I think this Iphone topic should be the on the front page of Debito’s site and not hidden within the forums, because it’s all I hear foreigners in Japan talking about these days.

    41. Chris L Says:

      Regarding foreigners paying only with credit card,
      I called SB myself to find out if this is official as it doesn’t say that on the website in E or J.
      After many “hold on while I check” waits, I was told it IS official, and was given a (reading from a script like) apology for the website not being updated.
      However, the lady at the shop said I could change to bank payments anytime after the contract was finalized.
      I managed to get the 24-month payment thing, and I used my health insurance card as my drivers license has my full name in romaji (the cops have refused to let me use my registered katakana name on my DL).

    42. Richard Says:

      so…If I got my national health insurance card (I’ve been pondering this, though I’ve got good coverage from my own insurance and my employers) I could an iphone for a reasonable price?

      As for the people attempting to state the 80,000 yen price is fair are bonkers. Apple set the price of this handset at $200 worldwide with a contract. WHY WHY WHY WHY should it be quadruple this because of some bureaucratic requirement? If this happened in the UK, ie one price for foreigners with the wrong visas and another for one’s with the right one’s there would be uproar. Typical Japan though, this just slides!

    43. Jason Says:

      Actually, you can purchase the iPhone 3G unlocked in Hong Kong from Hutchinson 3 (as Hong Kong SAR law prohibits tying a phone to a service). The only catch is that you have to buy the phone with the entire plan, which may end up costing you $800 USD. But at the very least, the iPhone will be unlocked and you’ll have a SIM card that’ll work in Hong Kong!

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