Vodafone K.K. has begun unilaterally terminating services for prepaid mobile phones that have been used in fraudulent billing and other crimes, company officials said Tuesday.

The Liberal Democratic Party and its coalition partner, New Komeito, plan to submit to the Diet a bill requiring users of prepaid mobile phones to provide personal identification documents at the time of subscription. But the measure is unlikely to enter into force until next year.

Vodafone’s move will serve as a stopgap crime-prevention measure until the prospective law comes into effect.

E-mailing fictitious bills and postcards for adult entertainment Web sites and other paid services is illegal under a municipal ordinance on consumer affairs, according to the Tokyo Metropolitan Government.

The metropolitan government tracked down 291 mobile phone numbers used in such crimes and has requested that phone companies cancel the numbers.

Vodafone, the largest operator of prepaid mobile phone service in Japan, has received information on 200 such numbers and canceled several of them earlier this month.

According to company officials, the callers in most fraud cases cannot be identified. Vodafone has e-mailed warnings to suspicious mobile phones that service will be cut off unless personal identification is provided.

Vodafone cut service to some of the numbers after waiting a few weeks, the officials said.

In December, Vodafone modified its terms of use for prepaid mobile phones and can now terminate service if users’ identities cannot be confirmed.

“We want to take firm measures against offenders in order to encourage usage among law-abiding customers,” a Vodafone official said.

Vodafone’s move is expected to encourage other firms that offer prepaid service to follow suit. It is also expected to encourage information-sharing among phone companies, local municipalities and police.

Prepaid mobile phone services, which do not carry a monthly fee, have proven popular, particularly with parents who want to their children to have mobile phones and with tourists.

Because of their anonymity, however, the phones are often used in crimes, which has spurred national debate over whether they should be regulated.

There are an estimated 2.7 million uses of prepaid mobile phones in Japan.

NTT DoCoMo Inc., which did not have a large share in the prepaid market, has already ended its service.

In a time of both misinformation and too much information, quality journalism is more crucial than ever.
By subscribing, you can help us get the story right.