Public Policy Planning & Consulting Co. (SEISAKU-KOUBOU) is a public policy consulting firm based in Tokyo, covering broad policy areas such as economic policy, fiscal policy, regulatory policy, administrative reform, international trade and investment, etc.
PPPC provides consulting and briefing services to the clients in the central/local governments, Diet, local assemblies and the private sector.

This blog is aimed at providing general information, latest updates and some of our analytical reports about Japan's public policy in English.
The contents include;
- updates on some important government councils, especially those in which our executive officers serve as the members,
- weekly reports on latest news in Nagata-cho, the political center in Japan, (partially).
- analytical reports and articles by our members and distinguished experts outside the firm,(partially).


Internet Sales of Medicines and Real Estates

(HARA Eiji, PPPC President)

While it is commonly said that the banning on internet sales of medicines has been lifted since this June as result of discussions for the past several years, as a matter of fact, it was far from “lifting” the ban.

l  Although Prime Minister Abe had announced an entire liberalization of internet sales of general medicines at the beginning, the banning on sales of 28 items recently switched from prescription medicines has been maintained.
l  Further, while it was not reported widely, the banning on internet sales of prescription medicines has remained untouched.

While the government’s explanation is a “high risk of using internet,” there seems to be no clear background on such an explanation.

l  It is indeed necessary to confirm customer’s anamnesis or possible side effects upon purchasing high-risk medicines. Still, the internet should be more apt to confirm plural checking points than over-the-counter.
l  While there is such a discussion as “it is important that pharmacists make judgment by using the five senses through face-to-face sales” (message of subcommittee chairman Igarashi read in a meeting of the Industrial Competitiveness Council on Oct 29, 2013), it is unknown what kind of judgments are to be made as result of exercising the five senses.

After all, it was nothing but preservation of interests of traditional pharmacies under the nominal reasoning of safety control.

And now, similar discussions are going on with internet sales of real estates.

The focal point of discussions has been the “explanation on important matters” based on the Real Estate Business Law.

Under the current framework, it is provided that
l  An officer-in-charge must give face-to-face explanations on the important points in the contracts.
l  And documents must be handed on that occasion (e-mail not admitted).
It means that any explanations through internet cannot be accepted.

Readers may think that “there should be small needs for internet in real estate dealings because people usually do on-site checks on the properties,” but it is not always the case.

For example, there are quite a few needs for processing such procedures as receiving explanations on the important points in the distance afterward even though they actually went to see the candidate housings in case of short-notice transfers of timeless business persons.

Also, even in the case of short-distance moving, there are needs for internet explanations for such reasons as “please explain it via videophone because we want to share it in family,” or “we prefer answers by e-mail rather than over-the-counter in order to keep record.”

However, the current legal framework declines such voices and states that explanations on important points must accompany “face-to-face” processes.

According to voices that such regulation should be relooked, discussions started in the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism in its study group since April 2014.

Nonetheless, looking at the minutes of the meetings, there are quite many opinions opposed to internet sales for the following reasons.

l  Because people tend to look down (to read the documents) in case of videophone, it becomes difficult to estimate the extent of understanding by reading the customers’ faces.
l  Because the picture of videophone is not necessarily clear, ID duplication of officer-in-charge of real estate business cannot be prevented.

Here, let’s give it a little consideration.
l  People equally tend to “look down” in an over-the-counter dealing as well,
l  Because many people haven’t looked at the ID cards of officers in the first place, there is likely the case that we wouldn’t notice whether the ID is duplicated (countermeasures to duplication or imposture should be taken through different channels).
Doesn’t it sound like the discussion of “using the five senses…” at the time of medicines?

At present, the government is soliciting public comments on the study group’s “interim report” (until August 22). But unfortunately, it seems that the discussion is heading to a partial lifting of the banning on internet dealing of real estates in accordance with the cautious opinions mentioned above (for example, admission of remote contract of renting, etc.).

Note that this is still at the point of “interim report”, and it is strongly hoped there will be advancements in the discussions.

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