As we wait for Pakistan to implement mobile number portability, let us take a look at the status of another recent MNP implementation – in Japan. As expected there were issues after MNP – but the nature of the issues is interesting and has relevance to Pakistan as well. The main issues were not technical or process related – they were related to the intense competition and deceptive advertisement and marketing. The Japanese Fair Trade Commission had to step in and threaten the operators to fix their advertisements.  

Here’s a writeup of the issue as reported by the Japanese paper Daily Yomiuri.

The turmoil was triggered by the introduction in late October of the mobile number portability (MNP) system, in which a cell phone user can switch a service provider without changing the cell phone number.

Taking advantage of the introduction of the MNP system as an opportunity to boost its share in the cell phone market, SoftBank went on the offensive. The advertisements it ran during this sales campaign became the issue. SoftBank Mobile widely advertised that it would offer free calls and free e-mail in its cell phone service. But in fact, a number of conditions had to be met to receive such benefits. SoftBank Mobile’s advertisements failed to cite these conditions clearly.

But if the company continues to offer the discount deal after Jan. 15, that means the company deceived people who subscribed to it before that day. In that case, the FTC said it would issue a warning or take other measures against SoftBank Mobile. The commission also pointed out problems with advertisements by KDDI and the two companies.

The FTC said the language in the advertisements was inappropriate because it misled consumers into believing they could immediately receive a 50 percent discount in the basic subscription fee for some plans, or carry over without limit unused portions of a free call deal to the following month.  

The editorial notes that the Fair Trade Commission on Tuesday issued a warning to Softbank Mobile, saying the cellphone provider ran misleading ads in possible violation of the new law against unjustifiable premiums and misleading representations. The antitrust watchdog also issued cautions to Japanese operators NTT DoCoMo, KDDI and PHS operator Willcom.