Celebrity-run online stores punished

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Celebrity-run online stores punished

The Fair Trade Commission (FTC) is imposing a total fine of 38 million won ($33,200) on six online shopping malls run by celebrities, including those managed by popular female singer Baek Ji-young and female actor Jin Jae-young.

The move came after the commission announced its plans for the second half of the year last week, saying that it aims to build a safer e-commerce environment for online consumers as they have to pay up front before receiving their goods.

Iamyuri Mall, run by Baek and Yuri, a member of the co-ed band Cool, are accused of blocking customers from sharing information about products by positing fake reviews written by its employees masquerading as shoppers.

Almost 1,000 false reviews were found to have been posted since April last year. The job of penning them was bestowed as punishment on staff who turned up late to the office, at a rate of five reviews per infraction, the FTC said.

Others, including Evajunie and Amai, are accused of providing misleading information.

All six malls, including Shopgirls, Lotoco, are accused of refusing refunds on silk products, which the watchdog said was illegal.

“These celebrities’ shops have more influence over teenagers as they are more sensitive about following the latest trend, and they are heavily influenced by the celebrities they worship,” said an FTC official. “So this measure the commission is taking will work as a stepping stone to protect consumers’ rights.”

The commission said that regulating the malls will also serve as a wake-up call for owners of offline shopping malls. It anticipates that other malls which have violated the e-commerce law will correct their wrongdoing before falling prey to a similar crackdown.

“The celebrities-owned shops are very popular, so making them follow the e-commerce law will have a ripple effect on other competitors,” said the FTC.

By way of contrition, all six offline shopping malls have been ordered to post their wrongdoings on their respective Web sites for a period of up to seven days.

The commission is set to continue monitoring around 130 other online malls managed by celebrities that escaped the attention of the recent probe.

By Lee Sun-min [summerlee@joongang.co.kr]

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