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TOKYO: Two organizations supporting the rights of foreign residents in Japan called today for a boycott of NTT Docomo, to protest the April 1, 2002 imposition of a 30,000 yen deposit on non-permanent foreign residents of Japan.

The Community (, an Internet-based action network, and United for a Multicultural Japan (, a membership-based group, have pledged to maintain the boycott until NTT Docomo abandons what leaders of the groups call a "misguided and discriminatory policy."

According to Jens Wilkinson, President of United for a Multicultural Japan (UMJ), "We are very surprised at the timing of this decision by NTT Docomo, coming just as Japan is preparing to co-host the World Cup. This is an unfortunate step backward from the country's internationalization. We really hope that NTT Docomo will realize how damaging this could be to its international image, and will repeal the policy."

Arudou Debito, one coordinator of The Community, added, "It's a shame that NTT is trying to pass on its recent financial woes to its valued non-Japanese customers. Penalizing entire peoples for the actions of a few alleged deadbeats is just bad customer relations. We should take our business elsewhere."

Although Docomo claims foreigners default more than Japanese, James Gibbs, a vice-president of UMJ, disputes this: "Docomo contributes to the problem through its own Byzantine rules," he says. "Many 'non-paying' foreigners tried to square their bills before departure but were unable to. Docomo intentionally makes it difficult to cancel phone subscriptions, sometimes dragging the process out over several months. Docomo has decided to blame and penalize all foreigners for many problems of its own making."

The groups are encouraging people to switch to other companies, such as J-Phone and AU, and make it clear in writing to Docomo of their discontent about this policy.

More information and newspaper articles on the issue, including a trilingual protest letter which can be downloaded and submitted when returning a Docomo phone, are available at: (protest letter)



By Paul Murphy, Asahi Shimbun News Service
April 23, 2002, pg 20

They say the company's policy of seeking a 30,000 yen deposit from non-permanent residents is discriminatory.

Livid over what they term "discriminatory" treatment of non-Japanese by NTT DoCoMo Inc., two foreigners' rights groups are calling for a boycott of the mobile phone titan.

United for a Multicultural Japan (UMJ) and Internet-based activist group The Community are urging people to cancel their DoCoMo subscriptions until the company stops demanding a 30,000 yen deposit from new customers who are non-permanent residents.

Rights activists are angered because the deposit policy applies to all non-permanent residents, but covers Japanese customers only in cases where they are considered a credit risk.

"We are hoping that people will vote with their feet and take their business elsewhere," said Debito Arudou, founder of The Community, which has 130 members.

A DoCoMo spokeswoman said Monday the company was unaware of the boycott calls, but that its position will not change.

DoCoMo will "face the fact (of the boycott) like a gentleman," said Mariko Hanaoka, but will
keep demanding the deposit from foreigners because "we have to protect our revenue."

DoCoMo introduced the policy on April 1 because non-permanent residents, who make up the bulk of non-East Asian foreigners living in Japan, were skipping out on their bills at six times the rate of other customers.

"I understand that for business reasons they want to impose the 30,000 yen deposit but from our point of view it is discrimination against a group of people,'' said Jens Wilkinson, president of UMJ, a 30-member activist group that links 600 supporters via its mailing list.

Activists point out that permanent resident status is difficult to obtain and is generally enjoyed only by those with a Japanese spouse or ethnically non-Japanese born in this country.

DoCoMo is now considering allowing settlement of bills by credit card, in which case-as for those paying by direct debit from bank accounts-foreigners would not have to pay a deposit. Hanaoka denied that criticism of its new deposit rule played any role in its considerations.

But simply expanding payment options is not satisfactory as long as non-permanent residents electing to pay bills at convenience stores are treated differently, said Wilkinson.

"It still means that the (deposit) policy is in place," he said. "It would make a difference if they made it the same for everybody." (IHT/Asahi: April 23, 2002)


Kyodo News Service article, dated June 21, 2002 on UMJ and The Community's June 20 Protest Visit to NTT Docomo's HQ in Tokyo
(Original Japanese text available here)

Protest over the Foreigner Deposit Problem
NTT Docomo's Cellphone Contracts

(Translation by Arudou Debito)
Kyodo Tsushin, June 21, 2002

On June 20, 2002, members of United for a Multicultural Japan, a human rights group headed by Jens Wilkinson, visited the headquarters of NTT Docomo (Tokyo) to protest the company's policy of demanding 30,000 yen downpayment for all new cellphone contracts from foreign subscribers without Permanent Residency. They said the policy, which was in response to nonpayments, was discriminatory.

According to their publicity department, the company put into effect from April first of this year a system where foreigners with limits on their stay in Japan (zairyuu kigen) would choose either to pay a deposit of 30,000 yen or pay automatically through a direct deposit bank account. The deposit would be returned upon cancellation of contract, they said.

The group's protest letter read, inter alia, "Have you taken into consideration the fact that most foreigners are learning about and contributing to Japan? The complexity of cancelling one's contract or paying from overseas afterward are some reasons why people are delinquent. It is important that you consider streamlining your procedures."

NTT stressed, "Compared to Japanese and Permanent-Resident foreigners, payment delinquencies [of garden-variety foreigners] are happening at a six-fold rate. This policy is a response to that. It is not discrimination against foreigners." The company did not make clear exactly how many people were delinquent or how much the delinquencies amounted to.

A member of the human rights group who has Japanese citizenship, Arudou Debito (37), said, "You are promoting the social conviction that foreigners are untrustworthy. We worry that this will have a bad effect on all of us. It is certainly possible for you to access people ['s credit rating] on an individual basis, not en masse."


The June 20 visit to NTT Docomo seems to have had an effect. In August 2002, Docomo announced that from September anyone with a credit card, including those holding overseas-issued Visas and Mastercards, can now rent without the deposit. Unfortunately, it is a qualified improvement, as Japanese without credit cards still do not have to pay the 30,000 yen, while foreigners (those who try to get a credit card in Japan are usually refused--see here) still do. See August 29, 2002 Japan Times article on this subject HERE

Cell Phones and Foreigners In Japan

Saga Shinbun, Sept 4, 2002
By Edward Crandall
(Original Japanese text)

Most people would probably consider comparing prices and services most important when deciding which cell phone company to patronize. But because of a new stipulation in the contract offered by NTT DoCoMo to foreign residents in Japan, that company is making its chances of being chosen worse than ever.

The stipulation requires that foreigners who do not have permanent residency status and do not opt for the direct debit system of bill payment must, as of April this year, pay an up-front 30,000 yen ˝security deposit.ţ

NTT DoCoMo lays the blame on the foreigners themselves. ˝There are many cases in which a foreign customer returns to his or her country without paying outstanding cell phone bills, leaving us with no way to collect,ţ said a spokesperson at NTT DoCoMo. But, feeling that this was not the whole story, I phoned the company═s Kyushu District Headquarters in Fukuoka. In response to my query, a representative said that he ˝cannot publicly release data related to unpaid bills,ţ thus making it impossible to confirm or deny the company═s claims.

But the real issue is not financial. No matter what the ˝reasonţ is, NTT DoCoMo═s behavior amounts to discrimination, plain and simple. US cell phone companies do not have clauses singling out foreign-born customers, and one reason is that the company has no way of knowing at the time the contract is signed who will pay and who won═t. And to make matters worse for NTT, rivals au/KDDI and J-Phone both confirmed that they have no such clause in their contracts.

It is a shame that NTT DoCoMo has completely ignored the efforts of Japanese and foreign residents of Japan alike to bring Japan in line with internationally accepted norms of behavior. But, as Nippon Ham and Tokyo Electric Company now know so well, when a company puts profit as its one and only goal, respect for human rights and international trust are the first two victims.

by Edward Crandall
Column ˝Seen and Heard by E. Crandallţ
Saga Shimbun
September 4, 2002
English Translation Copyright 2002 Edward P. Crandall



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