Cabinet OKs bill that would lower minimum age for consumer contracts to 18


The Cabinet on Friday approved a bill that would lower the minimum age required for individuals to enter into consumer contracts to 18 from 20, in line with the expected lowering of the age of adulthood in the Civil Code.

The revised bill on consumer contracts would also bolster measures against malicious business practices, as 18- and 19-year-olds, who would be able to sign contracts without the consent of their parents, are seen as more vulnerable to fraud.

The draft law is among 23 bills expected to be submitted to the current Diet session in line with the planned amendment to the Civil Code to lower the age of adulthood to 18.

Specifically, the bill would add clauses allowing cancellations of contracts concluded in “a state of confusion,” where salespeople have attempted to trigger anxiety or romantic feelings in customers.

Among the contracts that could be canceled under the bill are sales of expensive schooling or courses to students who have been made to feel insecure about their job prospects and cosmetic or aesthetic treatments offered to those with low self-esteem.

Under the existing law, if a real estate agent sells a property without informing the purchaser of disadvantageous facts, such as the expected construction of a building that would hinder the view, cancellation of the contract requires proof of a deliberate intent to hide information. But the new bill would lower the threshold to prove negligence was intentional.

Unfair terms, such as stating that a contract can be canceled only if there is negligence on the side of a business operator, would also become invalid.

The lowering of the age of adulthood is expected to have repercussions in many other areas, including the acquisition of qualifications and issuance of passports, but people aged 19 or below will remain prohibited from drinking alcohol, smoking and gambling.

An expected revision to the passport law would allow 18- and 19-year-olds to obtain passports valid for up to 10 years instead of five, and the revised nationality law would require people holding multiple nationalities to choose a single nationality by the time they reach 20 if they obtained more than one nationality when they were 17 or younger.