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NHK contract for short-term renters

madphysicist

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This isn't a question, I'm just posting this here as it might be relevant for others. If something I say is wrong feel free to correct me.

So an NHK collector came to my door on Sunday and not knowing any better I agreed to pay for 1 month of NHK fees. I'm only staying in Japan for about 1 month for the moment in a weekly mansion type situation. Since I watch NHK programs online a lot I didn't mind that much paying 1 month and I assumed it was the same situation as the UK, that they track you down and fine you if you don't pay for a TV licence. I'm moving to Japan properly in April and I don't want to be on anyone's hit list. By the way, this NHK collector spoke fairly good English, if anyone is thinking "I would just have played the baka gaijin".

Of course AFTER I've handed my card over he explains it's a subscription and I have to call up NHK to cancel. On a tourist visa I can only get a data sim so that's tricky. I also realise after he leaves that he's signed me up for two months at 4,460 yen not one month at 2,230 yen as he said. To be honest I'm still not sure how they subtract the money, one month or two months at a time. And he signed me up for satellite without establishing whether I have satellite channels or not.

Having talked with my friends I realise now that the majority of Japanese people simply avoid paying the NHK fees, and you can discuss the morality of that if you like. But what was more relevant to me was that as someone renting a furnished apartment I have no legal obligation to pay, even if I've signed. The reason being that the wording of the law applies to the person who INSTALLED the TV set. There was actually a case about this recently, see here (only in Japanese):

テレビ付き賃貸住宅、居住者との受信料契約は「無効」:朝日新聞デジタル
【NHK】テレビ付き賃貸物件、支払い義務なし - 時事随想
(it says NHK are continuing to appeal but I couldn't find an article with more recent info)

I told the NHK collector that I was renting from the company for just one month and he was like "yeah most of the people in this building are, they all paid" - I don't know if that was true or not. However if they come to your door you should know not only that they have no right to enter and check if you have a TV etc., but that if you're renting a furnished apartment for a short time you have no legal obligation to pay regardless of what they say. And I'm pretty sure these guys will say just about anything to get you to pay.


I tried borrowing a friend's phone and calling NHK the day after (i.e. yesterday) to cancel, but we just kept getting a message saying too many people are calling, the line is busy. So today I bought some Skype credit, called my bank and they said they would block any payments to NHK. I'll try calling the NHK number again later so I can say I officially notified them, but I don't have the energy right now.

As I said I would not even mind that much paying NHK fees since I must have watched 100s of hours of their programming in figure-skating and dramas, but their underhanded tactics in deceiving short-term visitors are certainly not the greatest publicity for Japan.
 
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Lothor

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I also gave some money to the 'nice NHK' guy just after moving to Japan and was young and foolish (as opposed to middle-aged and foolish). Mrs Lothor was furious, although these days she insists on paying.

To be frank, I wouldn't even waste my breath and inform them that you have cancelled. By the time they have flagged it and looked into it, you'll be out of the country. Did your Japanese friends also tell you that there is no penalty for not paying? It's not like Britain, where the subscription law has teeth.
 

madphysicist

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To be frank, I wouldn't even waste my breath and inform them that you have cancelled. By the time they have flagged it and looked into it, you'll be out of the country. Did your Japanese friends also tell you that there is no penalty for not paying? It's not like Britain, where the subscription law has teeth.
Indeed, now I've had time to look into it I realise there's no penalty if you don't sign up. However what I wasn't sure about is if they can come after you if you've signed their "contract" and subsequently don't pay? I'm guessing the answer is no.

Certainly even if they had the power they would have their work cut out to track me down. I will reenter Japan in April on a student visa but I'll be at a different address in a different city.
 

madphysicist

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To conclude this sorry story:

Yesterday called up call centre number, wasn't anyone who spoke English so talked to a woman in my poor Japanese about the situation. She seemed to understand and told me she was very sorry for what had happened, I could cancel it without paying anything. She suggested I called the local office directly since she didn't have the power to cancel it herself. She gave me the number, which I called today.

The guy today spoke good English but was incredibly rude and insistent that I should pay for the 3 weeks. He did say he would cancel it from then on since I'm leaving. I tried to explain how it's the rental company's responsibility to pay not mine, but his attitude seemed to be "we don't care who pays as long as someone does, and they haven't." I also complained about the way they treat foreigners, and how difficult it is for people to cancel if they are tourists who don't speak Japanese but he just kept saying "this is Japan of course we use Japanese" - well it's funny how good people's English is and how many English pamphlets they have when they're getting you to sign in the first place!!! He didn't offer a whiff of an apology for anything. I gave up arguing with him because the call was costing me money.

Of course they won't actually get their money for this one month because I blocked the card already. Mostly I am just angry at the rudeness with which I was treated today. Oh Japanese people are just SOOOO polite...
 

S.K.

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Oh Japanese people are just SOOOO polite...
This kind of treatment is literally the worst that Japan can dish out (that and governmental job assistance such as hello work).

Yet it's still miles ahead the average customer service in most western countries. I'd say that Japanese people are indeed polite.
 

Mike Cash

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I wouldn't expect them to be polite. It is a subcontracted company whose workers get a nice fat payout for every contract they bring in; they work on commission. The amount they lost was greater than the amount the OP escaped paying. Slapping the food out of somebody else's mouth and expecting them not to be surly seems to me a bit much to expect in any country.
 

madphysicist

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I wouldn't expect them to be polite. It is a subcontracted company whose workers get a nice fat payout for every contract they bring in; they work on commission. The amount they lost was greater than the amount the OP escaped paying. Slapping the food out of somebody else's mouth and expecting them not to be surly seems to me a bit much to expect in any country.
I know the door-to-door salesmen work on commission, but the guy in the office presumably gets paid no matter what? Anyway if they're going to get so annoyed with cancellations after one month, they shouldn't sign up people who explicitly say they are tourists here for less than one month! My Japanese friends are really disgusted with the way NHK's behaved here.

I don't think Japanese people are that much politer than anyone else, but it was the first time I'd experienced that level of patronising rudeness from someone in customer service. Usually they'd give an apology even if they didn't mean it in the slightest. That's just being professional in my opinion.
 

mdchachi

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This has been going on for decades. I opened the door to an aggressive collector back in the day (this was 20 years ago) and I refused to pay. He gave me all the arguments and even threatened to call the police. I told him to go ahead call them. He gave up and left. That was the only time.
But NHK is getting their pound of flesh now. I assume they get a decent cut out of the $30/month we are paying for Japanese terebi on Comcast.
 
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