Copyright GLOBIS

In Japan, citizens regard it as natural that the government will ensure their safety, which means there is a scant sense of personal responsibility among individuals. The more effort is made to eliminate risk, the greater the cost to society, and that cost is passed on in the form of higher taxes and prices. Ultimately, it is consumers that end up paying for it. The government alone should not be relied upon to ensure the safety of consumers. The government, corporations, and consumers should each fulfill their respective roles to enable safety to be ensured via a healthy market cycle.

1. Government: Establish the minimum required rules and monitor the market. Don’t fall for the folly of overreacting with excessive regulation whenever an accident occurs and thereby increasing the cost to society

In Japan, if a consumer issue arises as a result of wrongdoing by certain people, the media and the public heavily criticize the authorities for inaction, and in response the government takes the opportunity to beef up regulations. This has led to a deeply-rooted situation in which citizens are spoiled by the government, depending excessively on government regulation. This can only have negative implications for Japanese society and the Japanese economy. Regulations to protect consumers, including ones that are already in force, should be continuously verified and a rational and realistic set of regulations that minimize social costs should be adopted. It is important to establish a structure in which regulations are kept to a minimum, and when a problem occurs, the facts surrounding it can be quickly grasped, the wrongdoers can be severely punished, the causes can be swiftly identified and action can be taken quickly to prevent recurrences.

2. Government: Make the Consumer Affairs Agency serve as an intermediary for providing the business world with feedback from consumers and fulfill the role of making industry healthier and nurturing it

In the case of kompu gacha (a monetization model for social games on smartphones) which emerged in 2012, the Consumer Affairs Agency skillfully provided the industry concerned with feedback from consumers, and the industry responded swiftly. So it was a success story whereby the interests of both consumers and industry were protected. At that time, the Consumer Affairs Agency only targeted the practice of kompu gacha after it had revised its enforcement criteria, deeming that the practice prior to the revisions would not be judged to have been illegal. By targeting the practice after the revisions, the Agency took appropriate action while leaving the video game companies with a path to survival. The companies responded swiftly, and abandoned the kompu gacha model, yet smartphone games remain popular, and can be said to have become a sector in which Japanese companies can compete worldwide.

It is important that the government and Consumer Affairs Agency serve as intermediaries for providing the business world with feedback from consumers and fulfill the role of nurturing industry by making it healthier.

3. Corporations: Make them aware of their social responsibilities and pursue thorough quality management and information disclosure

In recent years cases such as the discovery of toxins in frozen gyoza dumplings made in China, the fact that the chicken used in McDonald’s chicken nuggets had been handled extremely sloppily at the Chinese food processing company that prepared it, and the fact that chicken that had passed its expiry date had been used in the nuggets have terrified we consumers, but cases of food mislabeling have been occurring one after the other. Companies that supply end users with food need to responsibly perform inspections to ensure that foods, and not only imported foods, are properly managed during the production process and that safety is ensured. Companies need to be reminded to develop such a sense of responsibility. In addition, companies themselves need to voluntarily engage in thorough information disclosure and to enhance transparency in order to provide data that consumers can base decisions on.

4. Consumers: Become wise consumers that don’t have excessive expectations in the national government

Consumers are playing the central role in the modern era. By consuming, consumers can nurture companies—and also destroy them. We are now in an era in which consumers can use social media such as blogs, Twitter, and Facebook to convey their opinions directly. Consumers are no longer weak. They are the strongest element in capitalist societies. It is essential to establish a sound market cycle whereby consumers become wise and make appropriate choices, thereby weeding out malicious companies, while companies that have grown stronger due to the actions of “strong and discerning consumers” come out with even better products and services.

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