‘Wangiri’ callers face year in jail or hefty fine

The telecommunications ministry has decided to rewrite laws so that those responsible for making “wangiri” calls would face up to one year in prison or fines as high as 1 million yen, ministry officials said Wednesday.

The Public Management, Home Affairs, Posts and Telecommunications Ministry plans to submit bills to this effect to an extraordinary Diet session convening Friday, the officials said.

One planned amendment would define an act of wangiri as “the calling of a telephone by a business operator who uses a machine that rings a person’s phone and then immediately hangs up without conversing.”

The ministry has sought ways to keep wangiri operators from making these calls, large numbers of which are placed at the same instant and have repeatedly paralyzed broad swaths of the nation’s telephone network.

The wangiri operators use computer programs to make a massive number of random calls.

Often made by operators of adult services, the wangiri calls ring only once, but because the caller’s number remains on a mobile phone’s display, receivers often return the call.

They are then usually directed to a taped phone sex message or information on other types of adult entertainment, and those who stay on the phone are often charged hefty fees later.

The term wangiri is derived from combining the English word “one,” pronounced “wan” in Japanese, and the Japanese word “kiru,” meaning “to cut off.”