Watchdog to launch online consumer report

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Watchdog to launch online consumer report

Korea will have its own online consumer report Web page from next month, enabling shoppers to gain accurate information on various products before they make a purchase, the country’s watchdog said yesterday.

The Fair Trade Commission will launch the online report at the start of the New Year, benchmarking a similar tool that is currently being used in the United States.

“It is important that consumers, who lead the marketplace, take a more active role in creating a more fair and safe environment,” the FTC said yesterday while sharing its policy plans for next year.

The online consumer report page will allow consumers to share product reviews of the overall quality and price for popular items.

Recently there has been a growing number of cases of unfair practices in the marketplace, such as price fixing by manufacturing firms. The FTC hopes the online consumer report will help alleviate such wrongdoings, as was the case in the U.S.

In 1936, a group of professors, labor leaders, journalists and engineers established the Consumers Union in the U.S. and launched Consumer Reports (www.consumerreports.org) as a nonprofit organization. This provides expert reviews and ratings on a monthly basis, on products including cars, appliances and electronics.

“I’ve trusted them for more than 30 years for guidance with decisions on purchases as big as an automobile and as little as a bottle of all-purpose cleaner,” posted site user Bonna Oyer.

Now, the Korean government is planning on launching a similar Web page for Korean consumers to make sure they are better informed about how to spend wisely. The online report will be offered to consumers free of charge to encourage their voluntary participation in assessing products.

Meanwhile, the watchdog will also allow individual consumers to file lawsuits against companies for losses caused by false advertisements and price fixing, which has hitherto been prohibited by law. It also said it will make public information about local conglomerates’ ownership and shareholding structures, as well as the number of affiliates and their intra-group trading status next year.

“The economy is expected to remain tough next year,” said FTC Chairman Kim Dong-soo, who reported next year’s policy plans to President Lee Myung-bak yesterday morning.

“Amid such tough conditions, it is crucial that we promote a more compassionate policy for working-class people as well as small companies,” he said, urging large conglomerates to participate in creating such an environment. The relationship between the watchdog and local conglomerates has soured lately as it ramped up pressure on the corporate sector to rectify unfair business practices in line with the president’s goal of building a more well-balanced and egalitarian society.


By Lee Eun-joo [angie@joongang.co.kr]

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