- Don't be evil
- Good company gone bad: Yahoo Japan (aka Softbank)
- 2008: Softbank informs customers of it's new "evil" cancellation policy
- How to Cancel Yahoo BB service
- Why Softbank's cancellation policy is evil
- Why Softbank's cancellation policy in not illegal
- How not to pay for an extra month of service
This is Google's famous corporate policy, though be it much maligned and misinterpreted. As Google becomes more powerful in terms of the sheer amount of data it has collected, this phrase is often discussed in tech circles, especially now that Google has all but committed itself (if they follow through on their threat) to leaving the Chinese market. I am not going to get into a discussion of what Google's motives are, but want to point out a prime example of when a "good" company goes "evil."
Obviously, the use of the words "good" and "evil" is over simplified and subjective, and I am not so stupid as to think that the purpose of conducting corporate business is anything other than generating share-holder revenue. However, I am so naive to think that the amount of acceptable "evil" conducted by a corporation in the pursuit or revenue should not be dictated by methodical calculation of risk and benefits but rather from a higher moral/ethical point of view. Yeah, I am that naive.
Good company gone bad: Yahoo Japan (aka Softbank)
Why did I consider Yahoo Japan to have been a "good" company? Without checking wikipedia, I recall Yahoo BB internet and phone service hitting the market around 2000, give or take a year. At the time, NTT's prices for land-line phone calls were ridiculously expensive. Yahoo came storming in, offered a reasonable price, and quickly grew a large customer base. Though I wasn't a customer at the time, I thought this was excellent.
Consumers finally had a choice for local phone service, even though NTT still owns the lines and must be paid for said lines, the end result was a less expensive option. Of course Yahoo Japan was not in the public service business. Mr. Son saw an opportunity to make money and took full advantage of it. The result was both good for the consumer and for Yahoo Japan's bottom line. In the same fashion, years later, Vonage literally forced US telco's to drop their prices, and even if Vonage finally foundered and failed tomorrow, it would be long remember for this contribution to US consumers. Likewise, credit must be given to Yahoo Japan for accomplishing a similar feat in Japan. (Yes, I give credit where credit is due.)
Fast forward to 2008: Softbank informs customers of it's new "evil" cancellation policy.
Yahoo BB is the only ISP in Japan that I am aware of that does not allow one to simply call and cancel their contract. Even once the cancellation process is complete, Yahoo BB is the only ISP in Japan that I know of that will charge you for the full rest of the month. For example, if one calls Yahoo BB on the 15th of the month and requests service to be immediately disconnected, charges will be incurred for the rest of the month. To make matters more interesting, if the cancellation procedure is not completed by the end of the month, the customer will be charged for the full next month.
Yes, it is entirely possible to pay for an extra 1.5 months of unused Yahoo BB service after requesting cancelation. I consider this "Evil."
How to Cancel Yahoo BB service
- Do your research by searching the web first (unlike me). Here is a completely correct set of instructions in English.
- Call Yahoo BB and ask to cancel.
- Yahoo BB will send you a cancelation form that must be filled-in and sent back
- Service will be billed in monthly increments until this is received by the Softbank BB cancellation center.
- It is not made explicitly clear at the time of cancellation that you will continue to be billed until you send in this form.
- If you have already moved, Softbank (for reasons they refuse to explain) cannot send this form to your new address, even though they have it on file. They will only send it to your old address.
- In some cases Softbank may not promptly send the form.
- Time is required for the post office to forward this to you.
- By the time you get the form and send it back, it is entirely possible that Softbank will receive it on or after the first of the next month and will charge an additional month. （X月分のご利用料金までご請求させていただきます。）
- This policy is entirely designed to squeeze one last month or more of service fees from as many canceling customers as possible in order to increase revenue with little calculated risk of alienating customers because said customers were canceling service anyway.
No bullet points needed. Simply put, this cancellation policy is written in the initial contract. The customer agreed to the contract and is bound by its terms. I am not a lawyer and do not know if in places like the EU or the US, terms such as these are allowed or not.
How not to pay for an extra month of service
In my case, by the time I received the cancellation form (over half a month after I requested cancellation), there was not time to get the form back prior to the first of the next month. As such, I would not only be charged for over half a month of unused service, but of a whole extra month, DUE TO NO FAULT OF MY OWN. Yes, it was my fault for not knowing the terms of cancellation of my contract, but even being ignorant of these terms, I requested cancelation well before the end of the month. I would go so far as to say Yahoo BB was negligent for not delivering the required forms in a timely fashion. Wait a minute, I actually did say that. But I get ahead of myself.
- Call Yahoo BB and explain the situation.
- Point out that you were duly diligent in timely requesting cancellation.
- Point out that Softbank was negligent in not timely providing the forms required by contract.
- Politely refuse to pay for the extra month of charges that were incurred due to no fault of your own.
- Be persistent.
- Ask to speak to a manager.
- When not given to a manager, less politely refuse to pay.
I conducted these conversations in Japanese. If you speak proper Japanese - I mean teinei and keigo - call in Japanese. Be polite. This is Japan, after all. But if you run into trouble, continue the conversation in polite Japanese, but let your non-Japanese mentality rear its gaijin head.