Consumer Affairs Agency, Government Of Japan
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White Paper on Consumer Affairs 2015 [Summary]

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

Chapter 3 Trends in consumer issues

Section 1 Overview of consumer issues

The number of consumer affairs consultations increased in FY 2014 for the second consecutive year
  • The number of consumer affairs consultations peaked in FY 2004, when the total reached 1.92 million due to rampant fictitious bill cases, and began to decline in FY 2005.
  • The number increased for the first time in nine years in FY 2013 and rose further in FY 2014.
  • This rise over the year is attributable to the increase in problems related to information and communications technology (ICT) as consumers more often deal with ICT products/services, with even older generations adopting ICT. Another presumable contributing factor is a consistently large number of consultations by the elderly.

Figure 3-1-1 Changes in the number of consumer affairs consultations

Consultations on ICT issues are by far the largest in number
  • The breakdown of the FY 2014 consultations by product/service type shows that “transport & communications services” was by far the largest category in the number of consultations, with about 270,000 consultations received. Information and communications technology (ICT) issues (communications services) accounted for about 90% of the category. However, payments made per case were small, at ¥26,000.
  • “Financial & insurance services” was the second largest category in the number of consultations.

Figure 3-1-2 The number of consumer affairs consultations and payments made, by product/service type(FY 2014)

Average value involved per consultation is declining
  • The average contract/purchase value (amount billed or purchased/contracted) per consultation case has been declining these years in all groups: total, the elderly (65 years & over), and under 65 years.
  • The average payments made (amount actually paid) are falling as well.
  • The decline in value is attributable to the increase in Internet-related consultations, which involve relatively small amounts on average. The fact that more of the consumers seeking consultation are doing so in early stages of problems is probably another factor.

Figure 3-1-3 Changes in average contract/purchase value and average payments made

ICT-related consultations are common in a wide range of age groups
  • Many of consumer affairs consultations in FY 2014 were related to ICT, such as digital content, Internet connection lines, mobile phone and other communications services, in a wide range of age groups.
  • The largest age group was in the 40s for both men (74,000 cases) and women (77,000 cases). Other major groups were men in their 60s and women in their 70s, each with more than 70,000 cases.
  • Financial products accounted for a large part of consultations for women in their 60s and 70s.

Figure 3-1-6 The number of consultations by product/service type, by gender and age group(FY 2014)

Consumer affairs consultations for the elderly are increasing
  • The number of consumer affairs consultations for the elderly aged 65 years and over in FY 2014 was slightly below the level in FY 2013 but posted an increase by 52.7% from the FY 2009 level.
  • This increase is well above the growth in the elderly population (13.8%).
  • In FY 2014, the number of consultations for the elderly except for those on the negative option marketing of health food was greater than that in FY 2013.

Figure 3-1-8 The number of consultations for the elderly

Figure 3-1-9 Changes in the number of consumer affairs consultations and Japan’s population

The number of consultations for elderly people with dementia, etc. is on the rise, suggesting the need to closely watch over such people
  • The number of consultations for elderly people with dementia, etc. who need to be watched over is increasing.
  • A major part, or about 40%, of these consultations are pertinent to the door-to-door sales of newspaper subscription, repairs, work, and so forth.
  • Most of the consultations for elderly people with dementia, etc. are received from people other than the contracting person.
  • Actions should be taken to watch more closely over elderly people with dementia, etc. because they are assumed experiencing problems left without consulting local consumer affairs centers.

Figure 3-1-12 The number of consultations for elderly people with dementia, etc.

Figure 3-1-13 Breakdown of consultations for elderly people with dementia, etc. by sales/purchase method(FY 2014)

“Mail order sales” account for an increasing part of consultations
  • The breakdown of consultations by sales/purchase method indicates that the percentage of “purchase at stores” is declining, while that of “mail order sales” is increasing, accounting for 33.6% of the total in FY 2014. This “mail order sales” accounts for over 40% among consumers aged under 65 years.
  • Among consultations by the elderly, “door-to-door sales” and “telemarketing sales” are still dominant, accounting for one-third of the total together.

Figure 3-1-15 Changes in the breakdown of consultations by sales/purchase method

The growth of consultations on “online stores” is driving the increase in total consultations
  • In recent years, consultations on sales/purchase methods other than “online stores” are decreasing in general, while consultations on “online stores” are increasing, driving the growth of the total number of consultations.
  • One presumable factor of the increase in consultations on “online stores” is that more people are using smartphones as these devices become more widely available.

Figure 3-1-16 Contribution to the increase in the number of consultations, by sales/purchase method

Consultations on smartphone-related services significantly increased
  • FY 2014 saw a significant increase in the number of consultations on digital content available via smartphones, rather than those on smartphones.

Figure 3-1-17 The number of consultations on smartphone and their usage

Consultations on aesthetic medical services increased
  • The number of consultations on aesthetic medical services, such as medical hair removal, fat suction, and double eyelid surgery, is increasing.
  • Problems observed in consulted cases are often related to solicitation practices, such as stressing discounts or urging customers to decide on the spot, and to advertisement cases in which advertised treatments are unavailable.
  • With some consultations reporting damage, such as skin injuries and burns, aesthetic medical services are causing problems involving multiple aspects of consumer issues.
  • Aesthetics medical services are a field where a wide information gap exists between service providers and recipients.

Figure 3-1-25 The number of consultations on aesthetic medical services

Losses from harm and problems to consumers amounted to an estimated 6.7 trillion in 2014
  • The losses from harm and problems to consumers (total expenditures on products and services associated with consumer harm and problems) in 2014 amounted to an estimated 6.7 trillion.
  • This amount expresses how much economic losses consumers suffered due to recognized harm and problems, as measured by the value of products/services involved.

Figure 3-1-29 Losses from harm and problems to consumer

Almost the same number of serious injuries as recorded in the previous year were reported to the CAA under Consumer Safety Act
  • Under the Consumer Safety Act, 12,078 cases of information on consumer accidents were reported to the CAA in FY 2014. This represents a decline by 4.3% from 12,627 cases in the previous fiscal year.
  • These cases include 2,906 “life or health-related accidents” (a 17.3% decline from 3,511 cases in FY 2013) and 9,172 “property-related cases” (a 0.6% increase from 9,116 in FY 2013).
  • The number of “serious injuries” (due to fires, falls, toppling, etc.) was 1,248, remaining flat from the previous fiscal year.

Figure 3-1-26 Consumer accident information reported to the CAA

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