Prevent young consumers from falling into troubling situations

Society can be invigorated as members of the young generation become actively involved as adults. Efforts should be enhanced to support young people so they do not stumble at the start of their adulthood.

The revised Civil Code comes into effect April 1, lowering the age of adulthood from 20 to 18. The right to vote in elections and national referendums has already been granted to people ages 18 and over, but those ages 18 and 19 will now be able to decide where to live and what career they will build of their own volition without getting their parents’ consent.

The revised Juvenile Law will also be put into effect, under which people ages 18 and 19 who commit crimes will be defined as “specified juveniles” to strengthen penalties to a certain extent. The revision will also make it possible for media outlets to identify specified juveniles by name if prosecutors indict them for serious crimes.

On the other hand, the ban on publicly managed gambling — such as on horse racing and keirin — as well as drinking and smoking remains in place until the age of 20.

The Civil Code revision will grant adulthood to 2.3 million people ages 18 and 19 across the board. It is hoped that people who are entering the ranks of adulthood will be aware of their weighty responsibilities and take on various challenges in their studies and work.

A worrisome prospect is that more young people will become embroiled in consumer finance trouble. Coming of age, people can take out loans and get credit cards on their own. Minors can cancel contracts that they entered into without getting their parents’ consent, but adults are not covered by such legal protection.

Surveys by the National Consumer Affairs Center of Japan have shown an increase in the number of people seeking advice among those ages 20 and over. In many cases, they were caught up in trouble over contracts for purchasing items such as diet foods, beauty treatment services and materials related to get-rich-quick schemes, according to the center.

At the ages of 18 and 19, many people move out of their parents’ home to work or pursue higher education. While they have higher aspirations, curiosity and independent spirit as their surrounding environment changes, it has been pointed out that these young people are at risk of getting involved in trouble because they have had fewer opportunities to learn about society compared to those in their 20s.

Online, there are many lures for pyramid and other schemes that exploit consumers’ lack of experience and knowledge. People must understand that there are no sweet deals in this world and to seek advice from consumer service centers and other experts immediately when offered a suspicious contract.

Police should also pay close attention to information on malicious business practices and other schemes targeting young people and take strict action against them.

The Japan Financial Services Association, which has more than 1,000 money lenders as members, has established a voluntary rule that urges members to screen customers ages 18 and 19 before extending even small loans. The association also prohibits its members from soliciting such customers by saying, for example, “Because you’re 18, you can borrow money.”

It is important to expand these kinds of efforts.

From the new academic year, high schools will start teaching about finance such as during home economics classes. Students will learn the risks and benefits involved in investing in stocks and other financial products. It is also important for teachers and parents to acquire knowledge and share it with students among others.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, March 31, 2022)