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The Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications is considering banning mobile phone carriers from charging customers fees for changing companies using the mobile number portability system, it was learned Monday.

The ministry plans to review the guidelines for the system, which allows subscribers to switch to another carrier without changing their phone numbers, in order to make it easier for customers to change carriers and trigger falls in mobile phone fees.

Currently, major carriers NTT Docomo Inc., KDDI Corp. and SoftBank Corp., as well as budget smartphone companies, collect a fee of ¥3,000 for a carrier change using the portability system.

An expert panel of the ministry sees no clear basis for the fees, believing that the fees have prevented users from changing carriers.

The panel is expected to sort out discussion points and draw up a report including a proposal to scrap the fees as early as autumn.

The ministry aims to revise the guidelines before the full-fledged start of a mobile phone sales campaign around February next year. But the abolition is seen to be facing opposition from the major carriers.

The mobile number portability system started in October 2006.

The number of carrier switches using the system dropped after peaking at 6.57 million in fiscal 2013. The annual total has ranged between 4.5 million and 5 million in recent years.

A revision to the telecommunications business law lowered the limit on penalty charges for canceling two-year mobile phone contracts to ¥1,000. But the number of carrier switches has not increased since the revision took effect in October last year.

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