E-mobile: avoid

This is only likely to be of interest to a few people in Japan, but I am one of them so I am going to go ahead and publish it.

I just got off the phone with an e-mobile supervisor called Mr. Fukunaga following a mostly polite conversation about their contract and renewal policies.

I first got a contract with e-mobile in 2008, when they were aggressively subsidizing new laptops if bought with a two-year wireless data modem contract. I enjoyed the laptop briefly, found the usb wireless modem useful for a year or so, then wireless networks appeared everywhere in my life and I forgot about it.

In 2010 e-mobile automatically renewed my contract. During a contract, you cannot cancel it without paying a 10,000 yen penalty fee. This is not particularly unusual with mobile contracts, but e-mobile ups the ante by doing the following:

1. refusing to send you monthly statements unless you pay them (and not offering email ones)
2. refusing to let you cancel your contract except during a one-month window in the year it is up for renewal

Mr. Fukunaga explained that as e-mobile ‘has so many subscribers’ they could not guarantee that they would remember not to auto-renew my contract for another two years, so I have to remember to call them back between the 1st and 30th of November. If I fail to do so, they will gladly renew my contract again for a further two years without telling me.

This is just obnoxious. Their business model seems to be based on signing people up for contracts, hoping they will forget about them, and enforcing draconian cancellation penalties if and when they do remember.

At first they were one of the only options for wireless data, but now that mi-fi devices are everywhere I would avoid this company like the plague. It probably didn’t help that it took me three tries and twenty minutes to get through their automated phone centre to talk to a person.

Anyone have anything good to say about e-mobile?

OMG, we fell for the same scam! AND my wife and I totally forgot about ours…until I asked my wife to check it..fortunately, we had a few weeks before our contract expired and were able to cancel it in time.

Hope you find a good way to cancel the contract without paying more than you already did…something like, the tsunami took all your paperwork with it…

Hi Mike

Unfortunately, I won’t be able to cancel until November, but definitely intend to do so then.

I’ll make sure you remember and set a reminder in my iCal.

They pulled this stunt on a friend of mine. It was interesting because I was with him at an orientation here when he signed up for it. It sounded like a great idea but I was a little skeptical at the time and didn’t sign up for it. Glad I didn’t.

It’s good that you got his name and are somewhat documenting it for the future. This type of practice really bothers me.

Thanks Andrew. I told them on the phone that what they were doing is tantamount to fraud (automatic renewal with no notification) and they got kind of indignant.

I’d definitely go with one of the bigger operators if I needed a similar service in the future.

This kind of 2 year contract seems to be all to common with Japanese mobile companies. I can understand being locked into a contract while you are still paying off the cost of a handset, but why do you have to be locked into another two year contract after that?

It seems all smartphones in Japan require a rolling 2 year contract. This is part of the reason why I haven’t upgraded my old keitai yet, which has a contract I can terminate at any time.

Hi Tim

Yes, looking at my softbank iphone contract, it has similar conditions (as does their ‘free iPad’ campaign). Very sneaky, if you ask me, and something that is not in consumers’ best interests. I think they do offer less favourable monthly contracts though, which is presumably how they get away with this (as people are ‘choosing’ to be locked in in exchange for lower fees).

3 Aug 2013, 9:56pm
by Ai Samurai

reply

Hi Ben,

Yes, their policies have not changed one bit. The customer service is without a doubt the worst I have experienced, stateside included. The customer center call line always takes 10-15 minutes to get through to a human being, and even then they are generally rude and unhelpful, for some of the same reasons you mentioned. I wanted to express my sympathies, and add another point not mentioned above:

3.) eMobile Japan does not let you pay off a contract, or even a termination fee, before payment is due, but if you pay four days too late, they charge a 300 yen fee, which, depending on your service contract, could be more than what you are paying monthly.

As an example, consider what I figured out through painful self-experience: Monthly payments are apparently withdrawn automatically from bank account on the 27th of a month. The payment is not considered ‘late’ until the month ends, and, even then, the notification does not arrive until the middle of the next month, but either way, if you try to pay on days 1-26, there is no means for doing so. You have to wait until the 27th, or whatever your specified date happens to be. If you somehow miss that payment for whatever reason (bank rejected it, credit card denied it, not enough available funds, etc.), then you would imagine there to be some grace period for payment, or some notification. No. The postcard requesting payment (plus late fee) is not immediately issued. If you try to preempt the postcard and late fee by calling on the 28th, 29th, 30th, as I called customer center to ask for a way to pay the missed payment, they generally deny your request because it hasn’t registered as a missed payment until the next month. Then the 1st rolls around, the payment is officially ‘late’, and the 300 yen fee is tacked on, no questions asked.

Okay, so this happens once, and you try to prevent it from happening again by paying early, paying off the remainder of the contract, cancelling the contract, etc. etc., right? No, eMobile doesn’t let you pay early, and doesn’t let you pay off the remainder of a contract and call it a day. Like you mentioned, there is that one-month window at the two-year mark where you can choose not to renew.

So…. pay early? Not an option.
So….. pay off a contract? Not an option.
So…. cancel a contract? Sure, but you can’t pay the cancellation fee immediately. Wait until the next month’s bill, and, if you happen not to pay in that four-day window (27-30), then that is also apparently eligible to be charged a late fee of 300. The cost of cancellation was 11000 yen for me, easily more than the remainder of the contract, but then again, worth it considering the likelihood that I’d forget about automatic renewal and my one-month window.
So… go to the store and physically tell an eMobile employee that you would not like to renew the contract, and need to end it immediately? No, the contract isn’t officially over until the cancellation fee is fully paid, and for that, they don’t accept ‘early’ payments, so come back after the cancellation fee is charged next month (27th or whenever), and if you don’t come that day, or if withdrawal from your bank account failed because you were off by 1 yen, so it becomes late, then you can pay that + 300 yen + interest at the store.

This company is definitely as close to swindling as you can get without testing legal boundaries. Even cell phone contracts let you pay off a bill before withdrawal date, and they don’t dock you 300 yen for a four-day tardiness. If you break your cell phone contract in the middle, you can pay it off right then and there instead of waiting another however many days for that 4-day window, before another late fee is charged.

I don’t know what is the bigger problem: the heftiness of a 300 yen late fee (they actually call it ‘failed customer payment check’ fee, as if having to send another postcard to you costs them 300 yen), or the fact that you can’t pay early. Once you’re locked into a contract, you basically have to meet the payment date exactly every month, or pay these hefty fines, and you can’t even cancel out of the contract at a moment’s notice and just end the pain, because you still have to wait for that next payment window, and if you miss that, well, the late fees just keep mounting.

Very bad aftertaste. I don’t care if all mobile companies have automatic renewal, I have NEVER seen a company dock late fees at a rate of 300 yen for four days of tardiness, and then refuse early payment or immediate cancellation just so they can take advantage of another month of forgetfulness and the late fees that that month entails.

I concur with the blogger. Just AVOID EMOBILE LIKE THE PLAGUE. Can’t be said enough. I hate being revengeful, but we have to send this message to anyone considering an eMobile contract, because this kind of policy is not at all obvious at time of signup. It’s very fine print stuff, and I can’t help but feel swindled, fooled, robbed, whatever you want to call it, and I really want to prevent others from falling into the same trap.

3 Aug 2013, 10:15pm
by Ai Samurai

reply

I should also mention that they make no exception for customers that might be traveling, out of country, or whatever during the one-month window. I tried to ask for a quote on the cost of the remainder of my contract until the next renewal date, so I could put that much money in an account before taking off, and then they can cleanly end my contract when the 2-year mark comes.

They denied this request for two obnoxious reasons:

1.) I was told they don’t store information on whether or not a customer wants to renew a contract. They don’t have ‘space’ (or memory) for that kind of request. You have to tell them about the cancellation after the contract has ended (again, they don’t take ‘early requests’)

2.) They can’t tell me how much remains on my contract because there is fluctuation in a certain ‘connection fee’, which costs around 250 yen monthly but could rise or fall slightly over a month. So even if I ask for a safe estimate, to ensure there is enough in the account, the answer is always, ‘No, we can’t give a number, and plus, your contract will be automatically renewed, so we can’t just say this is how much remains, because you have to tell us when the contract ends that you don’t want to renew.’

Apparently, they have enough memory space to record all customer calls so they can dispute minor details and legal claims, but not enough space to store a bit of data saying I’d like to refuse renewal at the end of this contract.

Pretty obnoxious, all the way around.

Hi AS

Thanks for stopping by and adding information to this post :)

I feel your pain. I am very happy to report that I no longer have a relationship with emobile, and plan to keep it that way!

OMG! I am going through a similar issue right now with my pocket wifi. They are refusing to cancel the contract. I haven’t used it since December 2012, and they still charge me connection fees and such. This can’t be legal.

Sadly it seems to be the norm here. One suggestion for emobile is to get them to change you to a pay for usage plan, and then ignore them (if you don’t use it you don’t pay).

 

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