Consumer Affairs Agency, Government Of Japan
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White Paper on Consumer Affairs 2014 [Summary]

Part 1 Today’s consumer issues and consumers’ behavior/attitude

Chapter 2 【Feature2】Consumer issues and development of ICT
- How consumers cope with the Internet society -

Section 2 Changes in consumer awareness along with the development of ICT, and the situation of consumer harm and problems

The elderly account for a growing part of consultations on problems with “Internet connection lines”

The age breakdown of consultations on “Internet connection lines” received by local consumer affairs centers shows that the percentage of those aged 65 years and over increased from about 15% in FY 2009 to more than 26% in FY 2013, suggesting that elderly people are more often involved in such problems.

The breakdown by sales/purchase method indicates that “telemarketing sales” and “door-to-door sales” are increasing in percentage, implicating changes in the sales/purchase method. In some cases, annoying solicitation by telephone or through door-to-door sales is repeated; in other cases, no documents specifying the contractor and contract details are provided, letting consumers conclude an oral contract without sufficient understanding of it. Even when purchasing at stores, some consumers misunderstand what they are buying due to abrupt solicitation, lack of explanation or misleading advertisement.

Figure 2-2-4 The elderly account for a growing part of consultations on “Internet connection lines”

Many consumers are annoyed by optional services (*) added to smartphone contracts

About 40% of consumers who have signed up for mobile-phone, PHS or smartphone services have experienced contracts accompanied by optional services that they could cancel later by themselves. About 60% of them do not want such optional services to be added. A little more than 60% of these consumers have experienced trouble with such optional services because of, for example, complicated cancellation procedures or charges incurred when they forget to cancel them.

(*) For example, when a consumer purchases a mobile terminal (e.g., a smartphone), he/she is requested to contract for additional services at the same time, such as a video distribution service and a security service. By signing up for such optional services, consumers may be awarded a discount on the terminal, a rebate or other benefits.

Figure 2-2-9 42.4% of consumers have experienced contracts accompanied by optional services Figure 2-2-10 65.2% do not want optional services to be added Figure 2-2-11 63.0% have experienced trouble with such optional services Figure 2-2-12 35.8% had trouble cancelling by themselves

Consultations on “online stores” increased sharply

Growing problems identified from consumer affairs consultation on “online stores” are delivery of products dissimilar to those displayed on shopping websites and problems associated with returns and cancellations. Although the number of consultations has been increasing steadily over years, a notable trend in FY 2013 is the rise of consultations on foreign online stores, along with conventional problems.

By the type of product, “clothing items” (e.g., “wallets,” “handbags” and “shoes”) account for 40% of the consultations in FY 2013, followed by “educational and leisure goods” (e.g. “wristwatches”), representing 25.5%.

Figure 2-2-17 Consultations on “online stores” increase sharply in FY 2013

Figure 2-2-18 “Clothing items” accounted for more than 40% of FY 2013 consultations on “online stores”

Consumer problems with cross-border trade involving “e-commerce” surged, especially those arising from “suspected fraud” and “imitation product delivered”

Among consultations on cross-border trade problems received in FY 2013 by the Cross- Border Consumer Center Japan (CCJ), the number of those related to “e-commerce” increased significantly from FY 2012. The breakdown of consultations in FY 2013 by the type of problem indicates major growth in the percentages of “suspected fraud,” “imitation product delivered” and “contract terminationed.” Regarding “suspected fraud” and “imitation product delivered,” which are two major categories indicating a pronounced increase in the number of consultations in FY 2013, Chinese businesses were identified as the predominant source of problems through the breakdown by the home country/region of the businesses involved.

Figure 2-2-26 Consultations on “imitation product delivered” and “suspected fraud” significantly increased from FY 2012, with many of them originating in China

Consumer problems with “online games” involving minors are surging

Consumer affairs consultations on “online games” have been increasing in recent years, reaching a total of 5,827 cases in FY 2013. In particular, the number of those involving minors has been growing about two-fold every year since FY 2010, reaching 2,439 in FY 2013 to account for about 40% of the total.

The contract/purchase value for minors is rising as well, and the number of consultations on credit card payment is increasings.

Figure 2-2-28 Consumer problems with online games involving minors are surging

Consultations on “adult websites” still account for a major part, with access via smartphones having increased to about one-third of it recently

“Adult websites” still account for a major part of consumer affairs consultations, based on their breakdown by the type of product. A notable recent trend is the increase in the number of cases where consumers access such websites via their smartphones become involved in problems, with these cases accounting for 35.2% of the total relevant consultations in FY 2013. Most of male consumers consulting on adult website problems in general are in their forties to sixties, while a majority of those having ended up with such problems through access via their smartphones are minors and people in their thirties to forties.

Figure 2-2-41 Consultations on “adult websites” accessed via smartphones are increasing

Consultations on “SNS” are increasing

As the use of the Internet becomes widespread in consumer life, consumer affairs consultations on “social networking services (SNS)” are on the rise. The list of top SNS-related products cited in consultations in FY 2013 shows that the most common subject of consultation in this category was “dating websites,” to which victims were mainly invited by people they met via SNS, followed by digital content issues (e.g., use of SNS, fictitious bills), regular purchasing of health food advertised on SNS, and “online games,” suggesting the diversity of SNS-related consultations.

Figure 2-2-45 Consultations on “SNS” in FY 2013 were double the number in FY 2009

Figure 2-2-46 Wide-ranging SNS-related consultations received in FY 2013

The number of personal information leakage cases announced by businesses is declining, and “inappropriate acquisition” accounts for about 40% of consultations on consumer complaints

The number of personal information leakage cases announced to the public by businesses in FY 2012 was 319, and it has been steadily declining since the enforcement of the Act on the Protection of Personal Information.

In FY 2012, local governments and the National Consumer Affairs Center of Japan received 5,623 consultations on consumer complaints about personal information. Complaints about “inappropriate acquisition” of personal information accounted for about 40% of the total, followed by “provision without consent,” “leakage/loss” and “use for unintended purposes.”

Figure 2-2-49 The number of personal information leakage cases announced by businesses is declining

Figure 2-2-51 “Inappropriate acquisition” accounts for about 40% of consumer complaints

When providing businesses with their personal information, consumers are concerned about the leakage of their personal information and its use for unintended purposes

About 90% of consumers are concerned about the leakage of their personal information and its use for unintended purposes, when they provide businesses with their personal information.

However, more than half the consumers have positive thoughts about providing personal information, recognizing its advantages, such as access to support services and economic benefits.

Figure 2-2-52 When providing businesses with their personal information, consumers are concerned about the leakage of their personal information and its use for unintended purposes

‘Big data’ is recognized only by about 30% of men and about 10% of women, and the less people know about big data, the more negative they are toward its use

Among ordinary consumers, only about 30% of men and about 10% of women recognize big data.

Among those who answered that they “know” or “somewhat know” big data, about 70% were positive toward its use. By contrast, among those who said they “do not know well” or “do not know” big data, about 70% were negative toward its use, suggesting that the less people know about big data, the more anxious they are about the use of big data.

Figure 2-2-53 Big data is recognized only by about 30% of men and about 10% of women Figure 2-2-54 Attitude toward use of big data widely varies by degree of recognition *Assuming that appropriate measures to protect personal information are taken when big data is used

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