Business / Tech

Japan to require carriers to immediately unlock SIM cards for smartphones

JIJI

The communications ministry has revealed plans to oblige major mobile phone carriers to remove SIM locks immediately upon the request of customers.

The plans were presented Friday to a meeting of a panel of experts. The ministry aims to amend relevant guidelines by the year’s end.

Under their new fee plans, KDDI Corp. and SoftBank Corp. were poised to keep SIM locks in place for 100 days after handset purchases. But they will likely be forced to review the policy.

SIM locks are designed to make smartphones of one carrier incapable of operating on the networks of others to prevent customers from switching to rivals.

The two carriers have announced plans under which the prices of smartphones bought via four-year installment plans will be discounted by up to 50 percent if the handsets are returned two years after the purchases. With the Oct. 1 enactment of the revised telecommunications business law, which effectively bans discounts for smartphones sold together with phone services, the carriers will make it possible for customers to purchase smartphones without subscribing to their respective communications services.

The ministry currently allows 100-day SIM locks to prevent users from defaulting on their monthly installments.

But the new plans announced by KDDI and SoftBank will render their phones unusable if customers do not subscribe to their communications services, prompting members of the ministry panel to claim that the plan will allow the companies to “enclose” users.

At the meeting, the two companies indicated their readiness to remove SIM locks if customers meet certain conditions.

GET THE BEST OF THE JAPAN TIMES
IN FIVE EASY PIECES WITH TAKE 5