The Yomiuri Shimbun The Economy, Trade and Industry Ministry has announced that 577,885 stores have applied to participate in the government’s reward point program (see below) for cashless payments to be introduced when the consumption tax rate is raised to 10 percent on Oct. 1.
Barring any problems with their applications, most of these stores are expected to be able to start rewarding points on Oct. 1.
About 2 million small and medium-size stores are eligible to participate in the program nationwide. At least a quarter of them are taking part.
“The number of applications is within the range we expected and will probably continue to increase,” a ministry official said.
Many small and medium-size businesses — which include local supermarkets, electronics stores and gas stations — have applied to join the program, along with the three major convenience store chains, including Seven-Eleven, and restaurant chains such as McDonald’s.
The ministry is urging participants to be thorough about data security, to prevent problems such as leaks of customer information.
For businesses to participate in the system, they must transition from “applied” to “registered,” which requires having their application documents approved by the ministry. As of Monday, 281,801 stores were confirmed as registered.
The ministry had set Friday as the application deadline for businesses to be able to participate in the program starting Oct. 1. Businesses that applied in time will, in principal, be registered to start using the program on that date. However, businesses that missed the deadline can still apply, and the ministry is asking them to do so as early as possible.
The retail, food service and other industries are taking different approaches to the program.
Stores directly operated by the three main convenience store chains are not considered small or medium-size businesses, so they are not eligible for the program. However, all three chains plan to provide in-house points at their own expense to ensure there are no disparities for customers depending on where they shop.
In contrast, beef bowl chain Yoshinoya Co. announced Friday it would not use the program. The company had originally planned to participate, but said there was not enough time to modify cash registers and other programs.
Other beef bowl chains — Sukiya Co. and Matsuya Foods Co. — as well as Kentucky Fried Chicken Japan Ltd., have also decided not to participate. Each company has said it is considering its own initiatives.
East Japan Railway Co. said that separate from the government’s reward points, customers who use Suica IC cards to ride trains will receive JRE Points starting Oct. 1.
■ Reward point system
Customers who make purchases using cashless payments such as credit cards or electronic money will receive 5 percent of the purchase price in points at small and medium-size stores and 2 percent in points at major chains for nine months starting Oct. 1. The program, which will run through June next year, is intended to prevent a drop in personal consumption after the consumption tax hike. Participating stores can display posters and stickers that are standard nationwide to indicate their participation in the program.