May 30, International Accounting Standards Board 30 Cannon Street London EC4M 6XH United Kingdom

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1 The Japanese Institute of Certified Public Accountants 4-4-1, Kudan-Minami, Chiyoda-ku, Tokyo JAPAN Phone: Fax: May 30, 2013 International Accounting Standards Board 30 Cannon Street London EC4M 6XH United Kingdom Comments on the Request for Information, Rate Regulation To the Board Members: The Japanese Institute of Certified Public Accountants ( we and our ) appreciates the continued efforts of the International Accounting Standards Board (IASB) on the Rate Regulation project, and welcomes the opportunity to comment on the Request for Information (RFI) on Rate Regulation. The views we present in this response to the RFI are partly based on consultations with accounting professionals specialized in electricity, telecommunications, and gas industries. We have not consulted with accounting professionals in other industries. Please note that this letter has been prepared based solely on the knowledge and experience of our members in these three industries. In no way did we intend, when drafting the letter, to present our views as to whether entities in these three industries fall within the scope of rate-regulated activities, or, contrariwise, whether entities in other industries fall outside the scope of rate-regulated activities. We trust you would find our comments of assistance in the process of improving the Rate Regulation. 1

2 1. The regulated industry and why it should be considered Question 1 For the types of rate regulation that you think would be useful for us to consider in the Discussion Paper (or would not be useful to consider, if applicable), what types of goods or services are subject to the rate regulation being described? In providing this information, please also tell us: (a) whether you are a rate-regulator, a financial statements preparer, auditor, user or other (please specify); (b) what jurisdiction the rate regulation that you are describing is in; (c) whether that jurisdiction is a recent adopter of IFRS; and (d) whether the main suppliers of the rate-regulated goods or services (ie the rate-regulated entities), including your company if applicable, are predominantly private-sector entities, government entities or closely related to the rate regulator. If the jurisdiction has not adopted IFRS, your views are still useful to us. It would be helpful if you could include information about what local GAAP is applied and how the effects of the rate-regulatory scheme are reported in accordance with that local GAAP. Comment: (a) Auditor specialized in the industries being described (b) Japan (c) Listed companies that meet particular criteria are allowed to voluntarily prepare their consolidated financial statements according to IFRSs in Japan, and it does not matter whether or not they operate rate-regulated activities. Other entities apply Japanese GAAP. (d) Private-sector entities Industry-specific accounting provisions (e.g., the Accounting Provisions for the Electricity Business authorized under the Electricity Business Act) now apply to the preparation of the financial statements of entities in the electricity business in Japan. These provisions provide a basis for calculating regulated rates. This is also true for the telecommunications business. The Accounting Provisions for the Telecommunications Business and Accounting Provisions for Type 1 and 2 Designated Telecommunications Facilities Connections under the Telecommunications 2

3 Business Act provide a basis for the appropriate computation of regulated rates. The same also holds true in the gas industry, where gas rates are calculated based on the Accounting Provisions for the Gas Business pursuant to the Gas Business Act and the Rate Calculation Rules for the Supply of General Gas. The Accounting Provisions for Gas Business, however, do not require entities to reflect changes resulting from rate regulations as regulated assets or regulated liabilities. 2. The objectives of the rate regulation Question 2 What are the objectives of the rate regulation and how do they influence the interaction between the rate regulator, the rate-regulated entity and customers? In providing this information, please tell us: (a) what are the high-level objectives of the rate regulation (for example, to restrict prices or to influence the levels of supply and demand or to restrict or encourage competition); and (b) how these objectives are reflected in the nature of the rate-setting mechanism? For example, to what extent: (i) is the rate-setting mechanism designed to give the rate-regulated entity a fair rate of return (for example, a cost-plus mechanism) or is the focus more on reducing the cost to customers (for example, a price-cap or other incentive-based mechanism); (ii) are there incentives to meet targets that are not directly related to the cost-rate relationship (for example, efficiency, service levels, infrastructure investment, increased supply capacity or reliability, use of alternative resources or reduction in customer demand or usage); (iii) does the rate regulation fix the price per unit or does it provide some flexibility for the entity to set prices (for example, through price ranges or caps, based on either unit prices or total revenue or total profitability); and (iv) are there other aspects of the rate-setting mechanism that reflect any specific objectives not envisaged above? Comment: Generally speaking, rate regulation is imposed on utilities in Japan to safeguard a stable supply of utilities necessary for the life of the people. The regulations ensure that the 3

4 suppliers can collect fees from consumers without fail, while also protecting the interests of the consumers by preventing the suppliers from making excessive profits. Below we present specific comments for the electricity, telecommunications, and gas businesses. [Electricity Business] (a) The primary objective of rate regulation in the electricity business is to safeguard a stable and inexpensive supply of electricity by preventing the negative effects of increased rates. The regulations inhibit rate increases by avoiding adverse effects caused by monopolies or by preventing the suppliers from making overlapping investments in excessive competition. For contracted power supplies of less than 50kW (i.e., small-lot consumption of electricity received at low voltage), ten electric power companies categorized as General Electricity Utilities under the Electricity Business Act have been given the exclusive rights. Each of these companies, in turn, bears the obligation to supply electricity to consumers in its allotted service area. Whereas contacted customers receiving power supplies of less than 50kW are subject to rate regulation, the retailing of electricity for supplies of more than 50kW (i.e., high or extra-high voltage) is unrestricted, and no rate regulation is enforced. If, however, one of the above-mentioned General Electricity Utilities engages in electricity transmission service for supplies of more than 50kW, rate regulation will be imposed on its wheeling rates 1. (b) (i) Companies apply the unit cost principle in setting the regulated electricity rates and rely on the cost plus mechanism to secure a fair rate of returns. Based on the Electricity Business Act and other related regulations, General Electricity Utilities set the electricity rate per unit at a level where the total costs to be incurred, that is, the estimated future costs ( fair costs incurred as a result of efficient management ) plus fair profits (e.g., cost of capital after tax), will be properly recovered. The estimated future demand for electricity is taken into account in the rate-setting calculation. If the rate per unit calculated through the above-mentioned method exceeds the 1 In the Okinawa region, a supply of less than 2,000 kw (either low or high voltage) is to be imposed by rate regulation. 4

5 existing electricity rate, the relevant General Electricity Utility needs to obtain permission from the Minister of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI). If a General Electricity Utility wishes to set the rate at a level not exceeding the existing rate, a notification to METI will suffice. The rate-based system is used to calculate the rate of returns on business by multiplying a certain portion of the rate of returns on assets held for business (i.e., facilities for the generation and distribution of electricity, and other buildings). Additionally, the yardstick system to assess the performance of General Electricity Utilities is also used to evaluate and compare the efforts of these companies to improve efficiency. (ii) When it turns out that the actual costs incurred are lower than the estimated costs previously calculated, or when the actual demand is more than what has been estimated, the profits for General Electricity Utilities generally increase under rate regulation. General Electricity Utilities thus have incentive, under rate regulation, to reduce costs and expand demand. The yardstick system to assess the business performance of electric companies when they seek approval for rates from METI also gives the companies incentive to pursue business efficiency. (iii) The unit rate is fixed as a result of the rate regulation. (iv) Apart from the aforementioned, a system for fuel cost adjustment is also in place. The fuel-cost-adjustment system is designed to automatically adjust monthly electricity fees based on fluctuations in fuel prices or foreign exchange rates. When an average fuel price over a certain period (a three- month period) is above or below the standard fuel price, the monthly electricity fees under this system are upwardly or downwardly adjusted after two months. This system is based on a power supply composition already permitted by or reported to METI as a basis for calculating electricity rates (i.e., expected power generation ratios from different power sources such as nuclear, liquefied natural gas (LNG), or coal). Further, a certain time lag comes before the adjustments are applied to electricity fees. These factors make it unfeasible to fully reflect fuel price changes into the unit rates. There is also a surcharge to fund the promotion of renewable energy generation. The electric companies purchase electricity generated from renewable energy sources for a price preset by the government, and consumers are charged with 5

6 certain extras to share the burden of promoting renewable energy generation across the nation. [Telecommunications Business] (a) There are two principal objectives for rate regulation in the telecommunications business. The first is to ensure that users are able to access telecommunications services essential for their lives at reasonable cost (i.e., protection of consumers).the second is to establish a level playing field for fair competition between small carriers and more dominant carriers who possess most (i.e., more than 50%) of the subscriber lines in their areas. (b) (i) The method for calculating connection charges between dominant carriers (i.e., carriers with more than 50% of subscriber lines) and other carriers is based on the costs borne by those carriers. Several methods are used to calculate the respective costs. Historical costs incurred for the operation and maintenance of telecommunications networks are assessed in certain areas, and long-run incremental costs are modeled to calculate costs incurred for connecting subscribers switchboards or trunk exchanges. A telecommunication carrier operating universal telecommunications services that must be provided adequately, fairly, and stably nationwide are required to establish tariffs specifying the terms and conditions of their services, including their service charges (i.e., lists of their charges), and to submit the tariffs to regulatory authorities before the tariffs are implemented. Other services are subject to a price-cap regulation and basically follow the cost plus mechanism together with the regulation. (ii) N/A (iii) Unit charge is mainly fixed. (iv) N/A [Gas Business] (a) The foremost objectives of rate regulation in the gas business are to protect the interests of gas users, achieve the sound development of gas businesses, and ensure public safety and prevent pollution. 6

7 To achieve these objectives, gas rate calculations must conform with the comprehensive cost principle, the principle of fair profits, and the principle of fairness toward gas users. Once a gas supplier sets its rates, it must submit either an application for approval or a notification to METI regarding its rates. (b) (i) The rate-setting mechanism in the gas business is based on the fully distributed-cost (cost plus mechanism) calculated by adding fair profits (fair rate of returns) onto fair costs incurred as a result of efficient management within a given period. The yardstick system used to assess the performance of gas suppliers is also used to measure the suppliers efforts to improve business efficiency. (ii) The implementation of the aforementioned yardstick system gives the gas suppliers incentive to improve efficiency. (iii) The rates are clearly set as fixed rates or fixed amounts. (iv) The gas rate adjustment system is used to upwardly or downwardly adjust gas charges in order to accommodate changes in the cost of the raw materials necessary for producing gas. 7

8 3. The rights and obligations established by the rate regulation Question 3 What sort of rights or obligations does the regulation create? In providing this information, please consider: (a) whether the rate-regulated entity has an exclusive right to operate in the market; (b) if the entity s right to operate in the market is established by licence: (i) is there a cost to acquire the licence; and (ii) can the licence be revoked, renewed or transferred; (c) how competition is excluded or encouraged; (d) how the rights and obligations are expressed, for example, as a cap on the rate of return, as the right to recover entity-specific costs, as a right to recover an allowed level of costs (whether or not incurred by the entity), or as a right to recover specific types of costs without limit if and when incurred; and (e) whether the entity can choose to stop providing the goods or services that are subject to rate regulation and, if so: (i) how is this achieved; and (ii) what are the consequences for the entity? Comment: [Electricity Business] (a) For contracted power supply of less than 50kW, General Electricity Utilities in each service region are given exclusive rights to provide low-voltage electricity to small-scale businesses and electric lighting to individual households. (b) (i) An entity must obtain a license from METI in order to become a General Electricity Utility. There may be costs associated with preparing license application forms; but new businesses are not generally expected to receive licenses not already granted. (ii) Under certain conditions, METI may revoke licenses granted to electricity utilities. In the event of a transfer of a full-fledged electricity business or a merger, a license may be succeeded by an assignee of the whole of the business, or by a juridical person surviving after the merger or newly established upon the merger, 8

9 provided that METI approves. (c) Companies need not compete for contracted power supplies of less than 50kW requiring licenses, as rate regulation is imposed. For contracted power supplies of more than 50kW, retailing is permitted with no rate regulation enforced. (d) With the rate regulation being imposed, electric companies can recover costs with fair profits added regardless of the actual costs incurred. Specific types of costs incurred in the past (i.e., temporary loss) cannot, in principle, be recovered. If, in exceptional cases, permission is granted under a METI ordinance, companies can recover these special types of costs by incorporating them into their calculations of current or future electric rates per unit. Yet even in this case, these costs may be impossible to fully recover if the actual demand for electricity is lower than the estimated demand. Alternatively, it may not be necessary to downwardly adjust electricity rates if the costs that would form the basis for calculating the rates are reduced. (e) Pursuant to the Electricity Business Act, General Electricity Utilities have the obligation to supply. And unless they have justifiable grounds, they cannot cease to supply electricity for contracted customers receiving power supplies of less than 50kW, which are subject to rate regulation. [Telecommunications Business] (a) Telecommunications carriers that provide universal telecommunications services are regulated. For other services, some of the carriers who possess more than 50% of subscriber lines in their areas may be regulated. (b) (i) N/A (ii) Registration obtained can be revoked but not transferred. (c) Though not directly related to rate regulation, Type 1 telecommunication carriers (i.e., telecommunications carriers with telecommunications circuit facilities) must agree to requests by other telecommunications carriers to interconnect with their telecommunications circuit facilities. As stated previously, the connection charges 9

10 need to be calculated based on the costs incurred. (d) N/A (e) Pursuant to the Telecommunications Business Act, no telecommunications carrier providing universal telecommunications services can choose to stop providing the services. [Gas Business] (a) Licensed General Gas Utilities have exclusive rights and obligations to supply gas to small-scale consumers in their service areas. (b) (i) General Gas Utilities must be licensed under the Gas Business Act and may incur certain costs in relation to the submission of license application forms. (ii) Under certain circumstances, METI may revoke licenses issued to General Gas Utilities. And when METI so approves, a license may be transferred to an assignee of the whole of a Gas Business, or to a juridical person surviving after a merger or newly established upon a merger. (c) For General Gas Utilities subject to rate regulation, there is no competition in the supply of gas to small-scale consumers. The supply of gas to large-scale consumers, on the other hand, is unregulated and open to competition. (d) Under the comprehensive cost principle, costs may be recovered through the collection of fees that have been either reported to or approved by METI. The raw material cost-adjustment system may also enable recovery of some of the costs incurred. (e) General Gas Utilities are obligated to provide gas supply services that are subject to rate regulation and cannot cease the services without justifiable grounds. 10

11 4. The enforcement of rights and obligations Question 4 For the rights and obligations identified in response to Question 3, how does the rate-regulated entity enforce its rights, or how does the rate regulator enforce the settlement of the rate-regulated entity s obligations? In providing this information, please tell us: (a) does the rate regulation provide for retrospective recovery or reversal of under- or over-recoveries of allowable costs? If so, how is this achieved, for example through cash payments or other asset transfers to or from parties outside the rate-regulated entity (such as individual customers or groups of customers, the rate regulator or the government); (b) are the rights and obligations separable from the business; and (c) what happens to the rights or obligations when the entity ceases to provide the rate-regulated goods or services? Comment: [Electricity Business] (a) No General Electricity Utility is allowed to retrospectively recover or reverse an under- or over-recovery of allowable costs. If there is any possibility that actual costs incurred will exceed the estimated costs, General Electricity Utilities may request to revise rates that have already been submitted to and approved by METI. If a General Electricity Utility makes no move to modify approved rates even though allowable costs have been over-recovered, METI may order it to make the modification. No retrospective application is provided for, however, in either of the aforementioned cases. In the comprehensive cost method, necessary expenses for the operation of electricity business within a reasonable period of time in the future are assessed over each three-year period (i.e., cost calculation period). Under this method, cost reductions achieved through managerial efforts are taken into account, and entities seeking to raise rates must have METI approve them or lower rates must report the rate adjustments to METI. With the fuel-cost-adjustment system, the average fuel price over a three-month period in the past three to five months is considered in the calculation of adjustment fees, and this is applied after a two-month interval. Entities calculate the unit adjustment fee per 1kW per voltage every month under this system, and rates are adjusted accordingly. 11

12 A renewable energy power promotion surcharge is calculated based on the unit price of the surcharge set for every calculation period (i.e., January to December every year), according to the actual costs incurred to purchase surplus energy. The surcharges are added to the customers monthly electricity bills in the following year. (b) The rights and obligations of the rate-regulated entity come together with their business operation, and are not separable. (c) Under the Electricity Business Act, General Electricity Utilities are required to supply electricity to contracted customers receiving 50kW or less, the level subject to rate regulation, and they cannot refuse to supply without justifiable grounds. When difficulties in continuing business at a General Electricity Utility prevents that utility from easily supplying electricity, other utilities would assume the rights and obligations of that utility, and the supply of electricity continues. [Telecommunications Business] (a) If the actual cost method is applied to calculate connection charges between carriers and a gap arises between actual costs incurred during a certain period and the connection charges calculated in the past, that gap will be adjusted during the calculation of charges for the following year. (b) The rights and obligations are not separable. (c) When the carriers cease to provide services, their rights and obligations lapse. There is no retrospective recovery or reversal of fees for users. [Gas Business] (a) Companies are not allowed to retrospectively recover or reverse under- or over-recovery of allowable costs. Actual costs incurred cannot fully be recovered, even with the implementation of the raw material cost adjustment. The reasons for this are as follows. The raw-material-cost-adjustment system adjusts the standard average price for raw materials to the actual average price. Yet the actual average price used in the adjustment is not the price paid by the rate-regulated entity to purchase the materials, but a price drawn from trade statistics calculated in Yen. Hence, there 12

13 may be a risk of under- or over-recovery of allowable costs. Adjustment fees calculated are applied to the customers bills three to five months after the rate-regulated entity has made the actual payment for the raw materials. Hence, the quantity of raw materials shipped to the entity at the time of the payment may differ from the quantity of raw materials sold when the adjustments are applied. As a result, there may be a risk of under- or over-recovery of allowable costs. (b) The rights and obligations are not separable. (c) General Gas Utilities are required to supply gas and cannot cease to the supply without justifiable reasons. If they cease supply their licenses may be revoked. 13

14 5. The recovery or reversal of cost and income variances Question 5 How does the rate regulation ensure the recovery or reversal of under- or over-recoveries of allowable costs (ie variance amounts) (if applicable)? Are these mechanisms effective in recovering or reversing those amounts within the targeted time frame? In providing this information, please tell us: (a) what is the mechanism for tracking the recovery or reversal of such variance amounts; (b) how does the rate-setting mechanism adjust for unexpected changes in demand for the rate-regulated goods or services; (c) has there been a recent trend whereby the balances of the variance amounts have been increasing? If so: (i) is this caused by an increase or a decrease in the demand of the rate-regulated goods or services; (ii) has the trend resulted in a net debit position (ie under-recovery of costs) or a net credit position (ie over-recovery of costs); and (iii) what are the main components of the variance amounts (ie what are the main categories of cost or income variances)? Comment: [Electricity Business] (a) There is no mechanism for tracking the recovery or reversal of variance amounts. (b) Electricity demand in each region is estimated in advance, and no automatic adjustment mechanism has been established to cope with unexpected changes in demand. Unexpected decreases or increases in electric power demand may boost or deplete the profits of electric companies. If the under-recovery of allowable costs reaches levels high enough to hinder the healthy operation of companies, the companies may apply to METI for revision of the approved electricity rates. Alternatively, for significant over-recovery under certain circumstances, the regulatory agency may order companies to alter the approved rates. In either case, the changes are applied prospectively and are not intended to correct past under- or over-recovery of allowable costs. 14

15 (c) The balances of the variance amounts have tended to increase in Japan. The principal cause is the inability of utilities to replicate the costs for generating electricity in the electricity fees they charge. Many commercial nuclear power plants have been terminated since the accident at Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant, which has forced General Electricity Utilities to operate thermal power stations or other stations that cost more to run. Consequently, actual costs incurred, such as fuel costs, have continued to overwhelmingly exceed the costs the utilities formerly estimated when making rate changes in the past. The higher cost burden now shouldered can be attributed to changes in the power composition that initially formed the basis for calculating electricity rates. Hence, the fuel-cost-adjustment system explained beforehand cannot be applied. The increased costs cannot automatically be shifted to electricity fees, and irrecoverable costs, mainly fossil fuel costs, are mounting up enormously. (i) The aforementioned increase in variance amounts is not caused by an increase or decrease in the demand. (ii) The trend has resulted in the under-recovery of costs. (iii) Due to the inevitable alteration in the power generation ratio after the nuclear power accident at Fukushima, the operation of expensive power plants such as thermal power plants has increased fuel costs. [Telecommunications Business] (a) There is no mechanism for tracking the recovery or reversal of variance amounts. (b) If costs are fixed at a certain level under the actual cost method for calculating connection charges between carriers, an increase or decrease in the demand would influence the connection charges. (c) N/A [Gas Business] (a) There is no mechanism for tracking the recovery or reversal of variance amounts. (b) No retrospective adjustments are made for unexpected changes. 15

16 (c) There is no notable upward trend for the variance amounts at present. Yours faithfully, Keiko Kishigami Executive Board Member-Accounting Practice (IFRS) The Japanese Institute of Certified Public Accountants 16

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