japantoday– Unlocking your cell phone provides an assortment of advantages. From being able to switch phone carriers more easily to staying out of device debt, folks who move overseas are especially familiar with the process.
In Japan, however, while unlocking your smartphone isn’t illegal, the nation’s three big phone companies, Docomo, SoftBank and AU, make it extremely difficult to do. From contract stipulations to essentially forcing customers to purchase a brand new smartphone along with a network plan, getting a cell phone can be a real headache in Japan.
Luckily for all smartphone users, though, Japanese phone companies will soon be banned from locking cell phone SIM cards.
Decided by the Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communication on August 10, the new policy is in effect starting from October. Previously, if you wanted to go through the hoops to unlock your phone, your phone would have to technically be paid off whether you bought it from the phone company with a lump sum or finished all your monthly payments, and your contract with a network carrier fulfilled. Now thanks to this new upcoming policy, smartphone users will have more freedom to switch network carriers and reuse their devices, which will certainly save them some money.
Now what if you just happen to purchase a cell phone along with a more restrictive plan from one of Japan’s big three network carriers before October? In that case, your contract will be liable to last until October 2023, though after that time period phone companies are legally obligated to dissolve it for free if requested.
Naturally, this is a blow for Japan’s big network carriers as they can no longer “lock” in customers to their cell phone plans, and certainly folks will be saving money in the long run by not having to change their smartphone device every time they change carriers.