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  • Chand B on AXA Direct Insurance requiring J language proficiency to qualify for coverage

    Posted by Dr. ARUDOU, Debito on October 21st, 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. Turning the keyboard over to Chand B for a report on AXA DIRECT INSURANCE’s policies towards NJ customers. Arudou Debito in Sapporo

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

    Axa Direct Insurance Require Japanese Language Proficiency To Purchase Insurance
    By Chand B., October 12, 2008

    Non-Japanese who spend any amount of time in Japan tend to get used to the occasional discrimination, ryokans that don’t want foreign guests, small restaurants who’d rather have local customers and more frustratingly landlords who refuse to rent to them.

    Despite this foreigners can always rest assured that the big international companies will always be happy to accept their hard earned yen.

    Which is why is saddening that Axa Direct Japan, a subsidiary of the global Axa Insurance Group, which even boasts about their multicultural management team (www.axa.com/lib/axa/uploads/presentationsinvestisseurs/2004/20040930_Japan_Activities.pdf), has begun discriminating against Non Japanese.

    Axa is presently running television commercials on Japanese cable television, specifically CNN Japan, offering value car insurance, the catch? Small print subtitling the advert stating

    ‘Being resident in Japan and understanding spoken and written Japanese are the basic requirements for any transaction of this insurance service.’

    Now some people might say insurance is a complex financial product and Axa probably hopes to avoid any misunderstanding with Non Japanese customers that might arise in a dispute.

    Others might say customers should be able to find another insurer who would be willing to sell policies to them, as the market will always provide. But this will probably come at a premium and if other companies followed suit it could lead to a de facto ban on foreigners being able to drive cars and rent apartments, the basic necessities needed to lead a normal life.

    This, couple with the recent reports of banks refusing accounts to foreigners are part of a worrying trend that could force those trying to lead a decent life to skirt the law, perhaps driving uninsured, or taking a job that pays under the table. It risks pushing the already disadvantaged Non Japanese further into a ‘social underclass.’

    Many Non Japanese living here often try hard to learn the language, but their ability to adequately read and understand a Japanese contract and their need to insure their cars don’t always coincide.

    How exactly is Axa going to enforce their policies? There are people who are pretty fluent in spoken Japanese but unable to read Kanji, not to mention some illiterate or mute Japanese citizens.

    I hope Axa will change their policy to something more reasonable, perhaps just requiring the Non Japanese have someone fluent to translate on their behalf during the sales and contracting time rather than a blanket ban on those not yet fluent in Japanese.

    I have emailed Axa and will update once I’ve heard from them.

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

    UPDATE FROM CHAND:

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

    From:   Chand B

    Subject: RE: Axa Direct Update.

    Date: October 18, 2008 12:53:27 AM JST

    Dear Debito, 

    I contacted Axa but my Japanese is far from great so I had to mail Axa in English, I asked them if they would accept Non Japanese speaking customers if they had someone to translate for them at the contract time.

    They replied, but I think they misunderstood my question. As far as I can work out they just say their service is only in Japanese, they don’t specifically say they wont accept customers with a translator.

    If I could impose on you to translate my question, I can contact them again. I have Japanese friends
    etc but they don’t quite understand the nuance of these situations and usually think I’m making a fuss over nothing.

    “Will Axa Direct accept non Japanese speaking customers if they have friends or family members
     to translate for them at the time of application?”

    Thanks in advance.

    Heres the Axa reply:
    =========================================
    B チャンド様
     
    時下益々ご清祥のこととお慶び申し上げます。
     
    この度は当社自動車保険に関する貴重なご意見を賜り
    誠にありがとうございました。
     
    現在のところ当社では、
    お客様にご満足いただけるサービスを提供させていただくため、
    日本語のみの対応となっております。
     
    数ある損害保険会社の中から当社をご検討いただきましたにもかかわらず、
    ご期待に沿えず申し訳ございませんが、何卒ご理解賜りますようお願い申し上げます。
     
    アクサ損害保険株式会社
    ENDS

    33 Responses to “Chand B on AXA Direct Insurance requiring J language proficiency to qualify for coverage”

    1. tanuki Says:

      Now wait a second. Fighting discrimination is noble and necessary, but there seems to be some misunderstanding here. How is requiring a residency in Japan and language skills “discrimination against Non Japanese” (the exact wording you’re using in your RSS feed)?. It would be discrimination against foreigners if it said “you can’t get insurance here if you’re not Japanese”, but it doesn’t. It just says an applicant needs to be able to understand the language if he/she wants to apply – is that so horrible? I mean, fighting discrimination is one thing, but requiring everyone to speak your language because you [can't/don't have enough time/don't want to/any other reason] learn their language is pushing it a bit too far, don’t you think?

      Again, let’s not panic – not speaking a language is not discrimination. I understand English is de facto an international language, but it still doesn’t make it the official language in this country. It WOULD be nice if they provided their services in English, no question there, but you really can’t require it like it’s your right…

      Chris in Tochigi

    2. JP Says:

      The issue comes down to: who determines if my Japanese is good enough and how??? Is it fair and equal for everyone? If it requires full understanding of a legal contract, I would bet that a significant portion of the native speaking population would have problems. A translator could help, but in the end, if I am willing to enter into a contract without full understanding of all the provisions, I am probably not all that different from the average native speaker and therefore it makes no sense for the company to not take my money.

      Legally the question that needs to be asked is it illegal to refuse someone based on the fact that they cannot understand the written contract?

    3. Uni-Word Says:

      It’s not a discrimination against the foreigners, and I would like to phrase my grounds:

      Insurance policies are highly-complicated even to native speakers, and this applies everywhere in the world. Many terms presented in the policy must be explained by a insurance agent and not by looking up a dictionary. Understanding native language of where you resided is crucial to dedicating portions of your income to this possibly life-time coverage.

      Besides, Japanese only and Japanese language only are two different matters.

    4. Level3 Says:

      There is another angle, and a bit more wide-reachin than just this one company.

      I congratulate AXA for their openness on this issue.

      I assume there are far MORE insurance companies that are happy to “provide” insurance to aybody and then use legalistic Japanese and/or their leverage as fluent Japanese VS. illiterate person to “provide” insurnce by accepting your insurance payments, but denying any claims and never giving you any money because they think they can get away with it.
      Even worse, in intra-insurance-company negotiations, in a foreigner VS. Japanese claim, is the foreigner always assumed to be the guilty party? [as too often seems to be the case in the police and legal systems] In this country where actual FAULT in an accident can often be ignored, and police are useless in terms of unbiased investigation, do most insurers see foreigners as high-risk not becuase they are dangerous (insurance companies SHOULD be aware that all the “crime” data shows foreigners tend to be LESS dangerous than Japanese) but because foreigners are more likely to be ruled against in court, or more likely to be ruled against in arbitration? that some BS “ignorance of Japanese culture” trumps the basic laws of physics that make it impossible to avoid a some stupid Japanese person driving like a maniac?

      But they’re probably equal opportunity in this regard, also taking advantage of native Japanese who might be illiterate or too meek [that's probably a lot] to demand their consumer rights.

      Any stories of such companies accepting foreigners’ money but then not providing the promised service? That is far worse than refusing it from the start on the basis of langauge ability, as more and more foreigners are able to meet this requirement. [Though I still agree that this language discrimination is a bad development, some businesses with legitimate worries about customer service will be paving the way for racists to use language as an excuse to enact racist policies. I mean, will we see a new trend where even those fluent in Japanese will be deemed unsuitable just because they havea "foreign accent"?]

      But rest assured, isn’t the Japanese government “taking every effort” to prevent racism? ;)

    5. Frodis Says:

      It has been my experience with insurance (apartment/car) that many Japanese, including the agents themselves, often don’t completely understand the insurance system and the nature of the contracts. One usually just sort of works around the basic coverage one is looking for and trusts the agent to be dotting the i’s. I went through this in the beginning with a co-worker who DID understand the ins and outs and she negotiated my insurance coverage down to something much more affordable. Now, although I still don’t know the exact Japanese wording of some of the coverage areas I have wanted/needed to address, I have been able to communicate the same meaning and have the agent adjust my policies accordingly. That being said, I don’t know what surprises could potentially await me should I ever find need to make a claim. I also had a fair knowledge of insurance ways and means from dealings back in my home country so I was aware of what things to watch out for and to inquire about. In any language, if one doesn’t know the topic under consideration it would be good to find someone who can lend a hand to help steer you through.

    6. STP Says:

      “Even worse, in intra-insurance-company negotiations, in a foreigner VS. Japanese claim, is the foreigner always assumed to be the guilty party? ”

      Insurance Company A: Your client rear ended my client.
      Insurance Company B: Your client is a foreigner. I rest my case.

      Insurance Company A: Ok. Nevermind. How much do we need to pay?

      “In this country where actual FAULT in an accident can often be ignored, and police are useless in terms of unbiased investigation, do most insurers see foreigners as high-risk not becuase they are dangerous (insurance companies SHOULD be aware that all the “crime” data shows foreigners tend to be LESS dangerous than Japanese) but because foreigners are more likely to be ruled against in court, or more likely to be ruled against in arbitration? that some BS “ignorance of Japanese culture” trumps the basic laws of physics that make it impossible to avoid a some stupid Japanese person driving like a maniac?”

      Must have missed that stat that stated “foreigners are more likely to be ruled against the court/arbitration than Japanese”.

    7. Alex Says:

      You should be competent enough to understand the contract in the language that it is legally bound, in this case Japanese. You should be able to make a claim without possible mistranslation when a third party is involved. You should be able to convey your side of the insurance claim directly. When asked a question regarding a claim, you should be able to communicate the answer. It’s not unreasonable.

      “Axa Direct Japan … has begun discriminating against Non Japanese.”

      They are in no way discriminating against non-Japanese, because there is no racial requirement. It’s pretty irresponsible to accuse someone of racism without any proof that they are committing a racist act. In some countries, that would be considered libel in court. (Chand B. is tarnishing their name without foundation, other than it’s something Chand B. imagines could be happening.)

      I’m not sure about the legal limitations of libel in Japan, but in Korea you have the right to free speech, but you’re also responsible for any damage that comes of it.

    8. Kanji_boy Says:

      I think it’s entirely unnecessary for them to mention the fact that Japanese language ability is required, but it’s also a bit ridiculous that any NJ would expect services in English from a Japanese company in Japan.

    9. AIB Says:

      Since we seem to be talking hypothetically, I might put it that this may actually be a cost cutting measure.

      I would imagine that handling a non-Japanese speaker’s claim could actually end up being quite a deal more costly, with factors like translating/interpreting required.

      Insurance is regularly refused (or a higher premium charged) for people with existing conditions, or that may even be pre-disposed to certain ailments, or that have a history of accidents.

      This may simply be the work of an actuary, crunching numbers, deciding that a non-Japanese speaker costs more when claiming. Two options – higher premium, or refusal – might have been better not to put it into writing.

      Will be interesting to see what the official company line is…

    10. Dan M. Says:

      And they have the exclusion written in great English on the ad! How conveniently ironic.

    11. jim Says:

      i want to tell everyone that AXA is not the only insurance company with this policy..i tried another european company that is based in tokyo and they also told me the same thing, in fact they would not even send me the application unless i can understand japanese..i even told them that my wife was japanese and they said that it doesnt matter..so this is a bigger problem then just AXA..this effects many types of companies and insurance policies.. because insurance companys are part of a insurnce group of companys so if one company is doing this discrimnatory policy then 9 times out of 10 then they all are…

    12. Mark Mino-Thompson Says:

      Funny that this should come up. I was at school in the office last week when some reps from Alfac came in on an appointment to do a presentation for some of the teachers. My family already has insurance for disability/life so I was only half-heartedly listening. Afterwards though I thought it might be worthwhile taking their pamphlet home for a closer look. I asked one of the reps if they had an extra copy. They told me that they were sorry, but Aflac policies were for Japanese citizens (kokumin) only. Thinking that they though I might be some short-term contract staff I mentioned that I was a permanent resident with years of residence. That didn’t seem to matter to them. When I mentioned being married to a Japanese, they relented somewhat and stated that they would be able to provide coverage through my wife, if she was the principal policy holder (myself as the dependant, I guess).

      Now, I can’t guarantee what they stated is official company policy, but I found the whole thing rather unsettling. I can understand some limitations on who can be covered, but most people if they are living in a country and have residence status should be granted insurance coverage. Nationality shouldn’t be an issue here.

      If it is true, one wonders if Aflac head office in the US is aware of this.

    13. betty boop Says:

      on their homepage they do declare themselves to be GLOBAL leaders in insurance. how can they claim that? as a side note: i have almost been turned down for traveller`s insurance – long-time permanent resident going back to visit the folks. i had never had a problem before that day. i really called them on it and had them look up specifically where non-japanese were excluded. well, books were looked at, calls were made and no where could it be found. i asked for and received an apology and traveller`s insurance.

    14. Mike Says:

      I have never understood the hangup with English in Japan. The spend billions of yen per year to learn at some silly Eikawai school but never want to use it or the opportunity to use it. What would be the big deal if everyone in Japan became fluent in English?

    15. jim Says:

      well mike, if everyone was fluent in english in japan i would then lose my job and i think we would still have these discriminatory insurance policies..

    16. David Says:

      This discussion underscores one of the key values of this blog. People ready to step up and be the rational ying to the emotional yang, so to speak. Lots of good information. It made me curious about my home country, the U.S., where car insurance is required. Suppose someone wants to buy car insurance in, say, California, but can’t speak English. Can insurance companies refuse to sell insurance to that person? Is that legal? If companies have the right not to sell any insurance product based on a lack of ability to understand the contract – something that at least on the surface seems reasonable – how can that person abide by the law if he/she can’t buy insurance? I only raise these questions because I wonder how that would work in Japan, where someone may be required to purchase some sort of insurance yet can’t because of the language issue. Maybe that’s a niche market where perhaps only a few foreign insurance companies are stepping up to the plate. But I don’t know.

      Just as an aside, I taught at AXA earlier this year and met many nice people who seemed internationally focused, which is one reason they were taking business English lessons. Perhaps not too relevant but thought I mention it.

    17. Murphy Says:

      Here’s something else to consider that probably explains why Chand’s idea of getting one’s wife or someone else as a translator will not be accepted: insurance companies are (due to consumer pressure) very careful where it comes to disclosing personal information and such. My wife and I are both insured through the same company. My wife took care of most of the paperwork, but she could not submit it on my behalf. The agent had to come out, talk to me, make sure I understood what I was signing and watch me hanko the papers myself. If any changes need to be made, my wife cannot even request the forms needed to make that change for my insurance. Only I can request those forms. It didn’t use to be like this, but there was that crazy insurance woman in Wakayama who insured random people in her town, listed herself as the beneficiary, and then poisoned them…

      The upshot was legal reforms to ensure that insurance forms were actually filled out by the insured, and that the insured was the one designating beneficiaries etc. Now add in customers demanding their privacy and personal data are protected, and companies really have no choice but to ensure that anyone taking out insurance can read the forms, make informed decisions based on what the contract says and all that. It’s not “racist” or “exclusionary” at all. There are good, sound, business and legal reasons for the policy. Now, there are still companies out there that do all the paperwork in English. If you need insurance now and can’t read, write and speak enough Japanese to handle such a contract in Japanese, use one of the foreign companies.

      And also think about this: since this is an English-language blog, naturally people are thinking “why can’t companies like AXA do things in English as well?” Well, we are a minority guys. There are far, far more Chinese speakers in Japan than English speakers. There are more Portuguese speakers than English speakers in Japan. There are more Spanish speakers in Japan than there are English speakers. We are at best 4th on the list, perhaps even lower (there’s a whole lot of Filipinos and Malaysians in Japan too…). How many languages do you expect Japanese insurance companies operating within Japan to deal with? We chose to come here and live, the onus is on us to adapt and speak the lingo (just like back home, where we want the newcomers to learn English in “our” country).

    18. topaz Says:

      I’ve had nothing but delightful interactions with insurance companies in Japan, but I was able to communicate and fill out forms in Japanese. My auto insurance is done through my auto dealer, saving me the trouble of even having to talk to an agent.

      When I wanted to purchase some life insurance, I applied for information packets from three companies online. It was very clear that I was not Japanese; I attached comments specifically asking if they could cover a foreigner living in Japan. Two packets came with friendly handwritten notes assuring me that they could cover me.

      The third, AIG, set up an appointment to visit me at home. The appointment began with the agent deeply apologizing that they would not be able to provide coverage to me. It was not simply because I was a foreigner; it was specifically because I was American. Their corporate policy was that Americans can only get coverage with the U.S.-based parent company. If I had been a non-American foreigner, he said it would have been fine. Despite the fact that he could not make a single yen on commission, he spent almost an hour running simulations on his PC with me and helping me think about the right kind of coverage. He then offered to provide an introduction to agents at competing firms, since they should be able to provide coverage. I was very impressed with the service and if I were, say, French, I’d probably be a happy customer now.

      I don’t know the insurance laws in Japan, but I have a hunch their language concerns are based on law. It’s very likely that agents are legally bound to be certain customers understand the terms of their policy, and that customers have accurately answered qualifying questions. If there were a disagreement later, and it could be shown that the customer did not understand something about the policy due to a language problem, then I suspect the agent could find himself in quite a lot of hot water.

    19. Shinrin Says:

      Demand & Supply: As long as any other “linguistic community” becomes a recognizable “niche market” their policies are going to remain the same…In many cases, “Language” is not a matter of policy, but of market decisions.

      Down here in Aichi there are quite a few Real State businesses run by Japanese and finding a “niche market” among the “Nikkei-Brazilians”, many of their clients are unable to fully understand not only Japanese, and even less capable to grasp what is behind loans and mortgage rules…These folks could just run away if things go mad for them, but the Japanese “service providers” do not care about it.
      In these cases, I have not seen any requirement regarding “language” or any mention to the “Law”.
      In my opinion, AXA DIRECT is lazy and “underfunded” for not hiring competent translators (Come on…If Japanese is required for business in Japan this country would not be able to have foreign businesses operating here…Do ALL the foreign companies have staff understanding perfectly all the Japanese rules in Japanese ?)and they should not use English-speaking media to promote their business (If “Japanese is required” what is the matter ?).
      I do not think it is “discrimination” but another case, of many, of “JAPANESE MULTICULTURAL MISMANAGEMENT”!

    20. Another John Says:

      I have cable at home and saw the AXA commercial this morning. Interesting how they have English translations of the ad script at the top of the screen through the whole commercial, then say you have to understand Japanese.

      But, that’s just irony. It isn’t discrimination. Really, Debito, calling this discrimination and a bad business practice is a desperate attempt at reaching for something to stir up. If a Japanese in the UK wanted insurance and couldn’t understand English, wouldn’t that company be hesitant to provide coverage? I mean, profit motive aside…

      It is ridiculous to expect any and all Japanese firms to provide multi-lingual support on the off-chance an NJ who does not speak/read/write Japanese comes through their doors. NJ who are here long-term have a responsibility to learn Japanese to the best of their ability, period the end. Sitting around and demanding that Japanese entities come around to help you (the non-Japanese speaker resident long-term in Japan) is selfish, childish and guarantees a bitter experience here.

      – Chand B is the author. Direct your comments to him.

    21. Murphy Says:

      Topaz hit the nail on the head in his/her last paragraph. Everyone read the following:
      http://www.hoken-select.com/h180050.shtml

      保険契約の説明義務は、契約するときに保険約款の重要項目を保険会社側が説明することにより、保険契約者が不利益を被ることがないように保険契約者を保護するためのものなのです。

      In order to protect the customer entering into an insurance contract from suffering any disadvantage, the insurer is responsible for explaining the main clauses to the customer at the time the contract is entered into.

      もし、重要な保険契約内容について保険契約者にきちんと説明することなく、保険契約者が重要な契約内容について誤解のもとに契約し損害を被った場合、保険契約者は損害賠償をしなくてはなりません。

      In the event that, because the contents of the contract were not clearly explained to the customer, so that the customer enters into the contract based on a misunderstanding of the contents and suffers damages, the customer must be awarded damages (by the insurance company).

      “In my opinion, AXA DIRECT is lazy and “underfunded” for not hiring competent translators”
      In how many languages? At all offices? So no matter where in Japan, anyone could walk into an AXA Direct office and find Chinese/Portuguese/Spanish/English/Bahasa Malay/Bengali/Hindi/French/Pilipino/whathaveyou-capable staff on-hand to answer all questions?

      “Come on…If Japanese is required for business in Japan this country would not be able to have foreign businesses operating here…Do ALL the foreign companies have staff understanding perfectly all the Japanese rules in Japanese?”
      Japanese IS required to do business in Japan, just as English is required to do business in America or Australia. Not everyone at the company needs to speak it, but every foreign company I have ever heard of in Japan has native Japanese speakers on staff. Without them, they’d never be able to deal with the legal aspects of conducting business in Japan.

      “they should not use English-speaking media to promote their business”
      On this, I agree.

    22. Drew Says:

      Chand B is the author. Direct your comments to him.

      I understand that you didn’t write the article, but aren’t you at least implicitly endorsing its contents by posting it as a main entry (and not a comment or whatever) in your blog?

      That aside, I disagree with the entire premise of the post, and to be honest I am a little bit surprised that you (Debito) endorsed it by posting it: The entire premise of the post “They are discriminating against non-Japanese!” hinges on the assumption of a 1:1 correlation between Japanese nationality and Japanese language skills. Just as I also know many foreigners fluent in Japanese, I also know a Japanese person born in Japan to Japanese parents who doesn’t speak a word of the language.

      Personally I would not like to be a party to a contract where the other party did not possess the language skills necessary to understand the contract.

      – I don’t necessarily agree with everyone who posts on this blog. I’m giving a venue to those who have a point to make, along the lines of subject matter within the purview of Debito.org. It’s not an endorsement. It’s a discussion. And the poster can learn something about the way he or she comes off to the general public by putting their writings in the crucible of public debate. That’s why I make very few edits to works that get put up — authors have to learn what language and tack works and what doesn’t.

      So keep your critiques coming — it’s good for the author. Just don’t assume anything about me and my approval. And it would be nice if I didn’t have to make this disclaimer every time.

    23. David Says:

      I have to admit that, like Drew, I thought you were siding with Chand B’s position because you do have the final say what gets posted or not. Therefore, posting his comments may have appeared to some that you are giving them more credibility than maybe you intended too. It may be pain but perhaps putting up a disclaimer along with the author’s post may be worthwhile so as not to give that impression.

      Somewhat off topic, you recently posted a piece from Michael Moore on how to deal with America’s financial crisis. That was clearly something you supported and you bascially said as much. I was surprised that you didn’t post something on that topic from someone more reputable in financial/economic circles such as Nouriel Roubini or the recent Nobel prize winner in economics, Paul Krugman. I can only speak for myself but your statement “I bet you’ll think at least once “that’s exactly right” while reading!” is a bet you would have lossed. I won’t lie; I think Michael Moore is a self-righteous socialist who at times plays fast and loose with the facts. My point is, I like this blog and the work you do, except for the fact that some of the articles, like Moore’s, are clearly not non-partisan and so I question your motivation for posting them. As a result, as with Chand B’s piece, I did the same thing. Yes, I know Roubini and Krugman have their own biases but at least their views are much more credible.

      – Understood. I guess disclaimers are necessary from now on, then.

      Meanwhile, the MM post. For the record, I have a hard time disagreeing with much of what Michael Moore says, and I’m very happy that somebody out there is saying it. I indeed posted Moore’s post because I agreed with it (and said so); it made immensely more sense than the economics-speak which has thoroughly confused me (and in my view, by design; confusing people with economic theory laced with politics is one reason I believe the developed economies are in the fix they’re in.), and it cut right through all the fog for me. Thought it might for others too. Granted, his post was a biiig tangent from the usual fare on Debito.org. Apologies for the self-indulgence. Thanks for making your standpoint clear.

    24. debito Says:

      WORD BACK FROM CHAND. DEBITO

      Dear Debito, thanks for publishing that report. I’ve heard back from Axa and they say they ‘could’ accept Non-Japanese if they have someone to translate for them, but I’ve since heard of another company (Zurich Insurance) that wont.

      There are also some companies that are more than happy to accept Non Japanese regardless of their Japanese ability (the local Mitsui Sumitomo)

      I notice there were a fair amount of comments on the issue and if it’s ok, I’d quite like to try and update the matter and try to address some of the points people made.

      I could write something by next week if thats ok with you.

      Thanks for everything, and thanks again for your site. I know a lot of people in Kyushu where I live who read your site and have found it useful, epecially the What to do if…… page.

      Chand

    25. Tod Says:

      Chand wrote:

      > I’ve heard back from Axa and they say they ‘could’ accept
      > Non-Japanese if they have someone to translate for them,

      Translate what? Presumably between Japanese and a foreign language. That is an insulting statement. Many (if not most) NJ living in Japan speak fluent Japanese. I would walk away from any Japanese organization who would not deal with me in Japanese, just like they would with any other Japanese resident in Japan. Nationality, race, and linguistics are three completely separate topics.

      – I think Chand’s point is that AXA will accept anyone who is proficient in Japanese (including NJ), or in the case of improficiency, will bring someone to translate for them.

    26. Frodis Says:

      For the past two years, upon closing the contract renewal for my car insurance, my agent has run down a checklist on the first/last page of the contract that has checkboxes for the insuree to verify that everything has been explained to him/her satisfactorily. My agent walks through each section with me and checks back to highlight the salient points in the contract. In the end, I signify that I have understood and agree to the terms of the insurance contract. This is not done only for my benefit but is an integrated part of the Japanese contract for the Japanese as well so I think insurance companies are just covering themselves more completely by ensuring that their customers understand what they are signing. This could become an issue if a claim were disputed or taken to court. A customer has less opportunity to claim they didn’t understand as an attempted form of defense.

      – Same here. There are always means to get around language barriers — and that includes legalese affecting native speakers as well. Just blanket refusals (or wording that invites that kind of misunderstanding used in advertising) are not something that should pass without comment and question.

    27. Ben Says:

      I always like the argument, what is it’s a deaf and blind Japanese, will they provide the contract in braille, however saying that – they shouldn’t be getting auto insurance to begin with.

    28. Chris Bartlett Says:

      I think this Japanese language thing is back-door discrimination, it is well known in the fight against racism seen in other countries for overt racism to be replaced by a more subtle kind. Language has always been one of the prime methods.

      Fair enough to have a language element in a few isolated cases, for example if you want to get professional indemnity insurance to be a lawyer or a translator, but car insurance?

      There has to be a line drawn on these things, if we can make allowances for disabled people, we can make them for foreigners or new citizens.

    29. Gene van Troyer Says:

      Interesting. I’ve seen these commercials. The English subtitling is a little ambiguous on the Japanese language point, but I took it to mean that in legal terms, the Japanese content of the insurance contract applied, not any English language interpretations; therefore it was important for applicants to understand the Japanese content. This seems prudent, since it’s possible a non-Japanese speaker could sue the insurer on the grounds that they did not fully understand the contract terms.

      I haven’t had any problems with car insurance or supplemental health insurance. The latter from Alicos has been absolutely vital in helping me cover recent hospitalization expenses, and Alicos Japan was prompt in honoring my claims—within seven business days of filing each of three times.

      I don’t know about AXA, but it seems to me that there are plenty of reasonable auto insurers who are more than willing to take the business that AXA may (unintentionally?) be throwing away.

    30. Shinrin Says:

      “…“In my opinion, AXA DIRECT is lazy and “underfunded” for not hiring competent translators”
      In how many languages? At all offices? So no matter where in Japan, anyone could walk into an AXA Direct office and find Chinese/Portuguese/Spanish/English/Bahasa Malay/Bengali/Hindi/French/Pilipino/whathaveyou-capable staff on-hand to answer all questions?

      “Come on…If Japanese is required for business in Japan this country would not be able to have foreign businesses operating here…Do ALL the foreign companies have staff understanding perfectly all the Japanese rules in Japanese?”
      Japanese IS required to do business in Japan, just as English is required to do business in America or Australia. Not everyone at the company needs to speak it, but every foreign company I have ever heard of in Japan has native Japanese speakers on staff. Without them, they’d never be able to deal with the legal aspects of conducting business in Japan…”

      Dear Murphy:. Maybe there are different ways to understand: “do business”:

      Yes I think that AXA Direct should have staff speaking languages found in the main “foreign communities” in regions where they operate here in Japan.

      To “do business” in Japan the Japanese language, in many cases, is not required. Someone can translate things for you and that is it. You can even open a company in Japan, in this way.

    31. John.c Says:

      Just wanted to say I love the irony that a big international company can’t provide it’s services in main languages. I also thinkthey should not advertise on CNNjapan as it does create a false impression.
      But the language barrier is no problem, I have had car and bike insurance for years now, using tokyo marine, and never had any type of discrimination.
      One company, who shall remain nameless even fullycovered me for any type of car accident before I even had my License!! (I took my drivers license in Japan, never held one in my home country)
      I felt that was great service:)
      Also as a final though on this subject、usually when you buy a car in Japan the car shop will do most of the paperwork for insurance… they did for me on the numerous times I have bought a wonderfully new looking used car.

    32. Murphy Says:

      “Yes I think that AXA Direct should have staff speaking languages found in the main “foreign communities” in regions where they operate here in Japan.”

      Except that the documents are in Japanese. Sorry, but if I was signing up for something as important as insurance (or signing any contract) and the company said “Here’s the English translation, now just sign here…” I’d say “No thanks. Give me the Japanese original”. We’re talking legal documents, and the language of the land is Japanese. If there are any problems, guess which language is going to be used to decide things (hint: it isn’t whatever language the translation was done in). That’s the way things work, in Japan or anywhere else. You are the one signing the contract, the onus is on you to know what you are signing.

      “To “do business” in Japan the Japanese language, in many cases, is not required. Someone can translate things for you and that is it. You can even open a company in Japan, in this way.”

      I suppose if you’re running a one-man Eikaiwa, that’s good enough. But for any “real” company dealing with tax laws, labor laws, etc. you’re going to need Japanese-speaking staff, especially for accounting. Translators are fine, up to a point, but again, when dealing with legalese you don’t need a “translation” that isn’t going to be legally binding anyway. You need to speak the language of the host country. Period. I really don’t see why this is so difficult for some to grasp…. If an American goes to Germany to live and work, is it racist or discriminatory of the Germans to expect him to do everything in German? I think not, and I would hope the reason for saying “no” would be self-apparent.

    33. Doreen Says:

      My husband is Japanese. He recently contacted Sumitomo Seimei to get supplimental health insurance coveage for ourselves. The processed his contract but said they needed someone to come to our home to interview me, supposedly because my last Ningen Doku was 18 months prior (should have been 12 months or less). An agent came and asked me lots of questions about my personal health history mostly, following a form she had to fill out based on my answers. My husband helped with some of the terms I’ve never had to use before in Japanese (I speak Japanese ok but am still learning and had never dealt with getting insurance in Japanese before or with terms of health conditions I do not have experience with. Since my husband was there and is 100% Japanese, we could overcome any places I didnt understand and get clear and accurate answers to the questions the agent asked. However, a few weeks later we were told that I could not get the any insurance coverage due to my lack of speaking Japanese fluently and because I do not read Japanese.

      I can not understand why this decision was made since with my husband’s assistance, we were able to answer all the questions accurately and I have no health issues that preclude me from being insured. I may have been able to understand if it was just the agent and I during that interview and therefore some questions may not have been able to have been understood or answered clearly.

      They recommended we contact a foreign insurance company. As when other things like this happen, I just kind of give up. My husband was quite suprised and a bit frustrated but being Japanese, he did not complain to the company about it at all as it seems he is not really comfortable about issuing complaints.

      I am from USA and in USA as everyone knows, there are many people from many lands and some do not speak English well. If anyone were denied insurance coverage due to not speaking fluent English, I have a feeling it could end up as a big news story and alot of people would be upset by it. It may not even be legal in USA for such a thing to take place. But we are in Japan and apparently many forms of discrimination are legal.

      I am curious if anyone knows a way around the denial I got from Sumitomo Seimei.

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