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Gov't spokesman keen to see mobile phone fees in Japan cut by 40%

Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga (Mainichi)

SAPPORO (Kyodo) -- Mobile phone service fees in Japan should be reduced by 40 percent, the top government spokesman said Tuesday, as the government pursues reforms in the telecommunications industry.

Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga's comments reflect consumer complaints that mobile phone fees in Japan are too high in comparison with other countries. He did not elaborate on why he specified a 40 percent price cut.

Japanese households of two or more people spent on average around 122,500 yen ($1,100) in mobile phone fees in 2017, according to the latest survey by the Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications.

In a speech delivered in Sapporo, Suga said all three major mobile carriers in Japan have posted higher profits than other industries.

"We have to say that there is no competition" in the mobile phone business, Suga said.

Japan's mobile phone market has long been dominated by NTT Docomo Inc., KDDI Corp. and SoftBank Corp.

But in a move expected to trigger greater competition, the government has granted approval to e-commerce giant Rakuten Inc. to enter the business from October 2019.

The three legacy carriers have also been under fire for practices discouraging subscribers from switching carriers, prompting the communications ministry and the Japan Fair Trade Commission to urge the companies in June to review those practices.

For customers on two-year contracts seeking to change carriers, the three companies have required them to pay penalties for canceling contracts before they expire, or to pay a charge equivalent to one month of service if switching carriers thereafter.

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