More power to Japan's National Consumer Affairs Center
To protect consumers from malicious sales and faulty products, Japan's National Consumer Affairs Center (NCAC) will be given more power. In collaboration with about 540 local consumer centers across the country, the NCAC will offer troubleshooting services on a one-on-one basis with consumers. Currently, the NCAC receives nearly 10,000 cases of consultations and complaints from consumers each year. Of them, the NCAC makes efforts to resolve disputes between business operators and consumers in just 200 to 300 cases. Asahi also mentions that officials are discussing punitive measures, such as fines, against business operators who do not comply with the NCAC.
Asahi: Center for consumers to get more authority
This is a very good development for consumers. It is better if simple fraud cases and complaints do not have to reach the courts, as consumers generally do not have the resources (time or money or desire) to spend fighting for their rights. The NCAC and local consumer centers can do a lot more to help. This also means business operators will gradually realize that shady deals are not in anyone's best interest - a huge problem in Japan has been loan shark practices, hardly an issue that an individual consumer can take on by himself.
NCAC English website here.
NCAC English Newsletter here.
NCAC also publishes a glossy magazine in Japanese, called Tashikana Me ("Critical Eye") which they have announced will be discontinued. I think that is a real shame. Such magazine could be developed instead and used for the benefit of consumers. Unfortunately, Tashikana Me has felt increasingly outdated, with very few articles on health or environmental issues (although the August 2007 issue explains what consumers can do to combat global warming).
For truly independent consumer magazines, I recommend the newsletters that Consumers Union of Japan or Japan Offspring Fund are publishing.