February 11, 2007

Softbank Ordeal

Warning: This post will be boring to most people. Read only if you are looking for a mobile phone provider in Japan or if you're trying to decide if the Softbank White plan is right for you.

If you're in Japan and haven't heard about Softbank Mobile's new White Plan, you've been living under a rock. For 980 yen a month, they offer free SMS and MMS messaging to other Softbank users and free voice calls to other Softbank users between 1 AM and 9 PM. Calls to other companies' phones and calls to Softbank phones between 9 PM and 1 AM are 21 yen per 30 seconds. To send and receive MMS messages (anything more than short text messages) a monthly fee of 315 yen is required. For people who either don't make a lot of calls or usually call other Softbank users the monthly bill could be under 1500 yen per month.

I'm that kind of user so a week ago I applied to switch to the White Plan. As a matter of background, I got new phones for my wife and myself last month on the "New Superb Bonus Plan" which means (as Softbank representatives usually present it) that in exchange for a two-year contract, Softbank subsidizes the cost of a new phone. I found that this isn't exactly the case. In reality, the discount doesn't apply to the cost of the phone; it applies to the basic monthly fee, optional services, and calling charges. What this meant to me was that if I switched to the White Plan which comes to 1300 yen per month with the optional services I need, I would lose most of the discount I thought I had.

What I had on my side was that the Softbank representative who had sold me the phones had explained the discount incorrectly and had actually written the wrong information on my contract. Even with that, it took four days of arguing with the telephone customer service, the assistant shop manager, and finally the shop manager before I got any kind of resolution. First there was a lot of "sorry we didn't explain things fully enough" and "we explained it in an easy-to-understand way rather than confuse you with details" but when I kept pointing out that their explanation to me was just plain wrong and that they even wrote it that way on my contract, the store manager finally relented. She gave us Tomomi's phone for free with no strings attached and let me downgrade my phone to a model that would lower my monthly bill by about 1000 yen. Even though it's an older model, I actually like it better. It's bulkier, but it has more features and I fat-finger the keys less frequently.

There's a reason that most of AU's advertisements focus on customer satisfaction. With the transition from Vodafone to Softbank and with ever-changing price plans, even the Softbank employees don't know the details of their company's offerings. Shop carefully and get everything in writing.

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  1. ahhh i'm dealing with this madness today. thanks for posting about this. time to hit up bic camera with my gf. we thought maybe the orange plan might have been enticing since they give you 50 % discount ...but after reading your post, i feel like maybe that 50% for new users discount won't apply to the price of the actual keitai either. most folks have seem to tell me...both j and foreign... that white plan is a good deal. regardless.. thanks for posting about this! glad someone out there has some perspective on these insane j-traps they lash out for people to fall into.

  2. Thanks for commenting Alvin. Yeah, you have to be careful out there. The price plans have changed somewhat since I wrote this post. However, for most people, especially if the majority of your calls are to other softbankers, the white plan is best. If you do end up calling a lot of other people, you can always go with the double white plan.

  3. Hey Jeremy,

    Do you know any good keitai shops that sell older model keitais, preferably softbank, but that can sell it with the service as well? I'm mentioning with the service because if you buy the phone from i.e yahoo auctions, you won't get the benefits of softbank's "super bonus" discount. Two weeks ago we spotted this deal at Bic Camera. They were selling the 812SH for 4800¥! I think the retail price now is near 30700¥ so that's a steal. I was quite a moron not to buy it, but I was not sure if the phone was any good or not. So I have been searching to see if deals like that are available anywhere else. Thanks so much!

  4. Hi Alvin. Sorry, but I don't know where you can get cheap phones like that. That 4800 yen phone would be a good deal because the superbonus for 812SH is 1280 yen a month for two years. There is some fine print such as cancellation charges that you should keep in mind though. You've probably read it but in case you haven't, it's here: http://mb.softbank.jp/mb/en/price_plan/superbonus/index.html

  5. Hello! Do you know much it would cost me if I cancel my white paln subscription? I just subscribed this month.

  6. Hi Anonymous,

    It's been a while since you posted but I'll answer anyway. It depends on what kind of contract you have. From what I can see on this page: http://mb.softbank.jp/mb/en/price_plan/whiteplan/index.html
    there is no charge unless you have a "six month contract." In that case the charge is 5000 yen. However if you have signed up for the "New Super Bonus" your charges could be quite a bit higher depending on the price of the phone you purchased and the length of your contract.

    By the way, why are you canceling?