Beyond the Era of Convergence
Edited by Hitoshi Mitomo, Hidenori Fuke and Erik Bohlin
Chapter 11: Problems with international mobile roaming: excessive deregulation works against users’ interests
AbstractInternational mobile roaming services (IMRS) offer services enabling users traveling abroad to make and receive calls and to send and receive emails to and from their home countries by handsets bought and contracted in their home countries. With the diffusion of IMRS, the number of consumers who complain of unexpectedly high IMRS charges has been increasing in Japan. The National Consumer Affairs Center of Japan (NCAC) has raised concerns about these problems and the Telecommunications Carriers Association (TCA) formed by Japanese telecommunications carriers have published solutions to reduce the problems. Japanese carriers advised customers on IMRS through their websites and leaflets and introduced a flat rate for data communications for overseas use. Despite these measures, new types of problems were reported with the diffusion of Smartphone and tablet terminals with mobile functions. This chapter analyses the IMRS system and it was used as an example to demonstrate that excessive deregulation works against users’ interests. One factor behind the increasing problems on IMRS is the excessive deregulation of cellular services in Japan, although the market is characterised as an oligopoly. If the market is competitive, the matter can be left in the hands of market forces. However the IMRS market is not currently competitive. If market forces are not working, some degree of regulation is necessary to protect users. I conclude that the MIC’s deregulatory measures by having implemented no regulations in the cellular market have gone too far and thus worked against users’ interests.
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