Retailers win suit on opening hours

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Retailers win suit on opening hours

Large discount chain stores and super supermarkets (SSM) in Seoul have prevailed again in their battle to stay open every day.

The Seoul Administrative Court ruled in favor of five major retailers - Lotte Shopping, E-Mart, Everyday Retail, GS Retail and Homeplus - yesterday, saying their outlets in certain pockets of the capital do not have to close on the second and fourth Sunday of each month.

The controversial rule was imposed earlier this year to protect mom-and-pop stores from the encroachment of big business. E-Mart, Homeplus and Lotte Mart were forced to close 267 of their 368 stores nationwide for two days a month, while the SSM operators had to shutter three-quarters of their stores on the same days.

The five retailers filed a class-action lawsuit against two district offices in Seoul, Gwanak and Mapo, requesting the operating restrictions be revoked on the basis of unfair discrimination - and won.

On June 22, the same five retailers won a similar case that allowed them to keep operating in two other Seoul districts, Gangdong and Songpa.

In explaining its latest decision, the court said the operating restrictions were invalid as they were imposed by district assemblies rather than heads of ward offices in violation of the Distribution Industry Development Act.

“The way in which the restrictions were imposed was illegal as the local ward offices did not notify the large discount chain stores in advance, which would have given them a chance to respond with their counter-arguments before the ordinance took effect,” said Park Tae-joon, chief prosecuting attorney at the Seoul Administrative Court.

The retailers filed a similar suit against Gangseo District Office earlier but dropped this on Monday as the district office revised its ordinance to bring it in line with the aforementioned act.

By Kim Jung-yoon [kjy@joongang.co.kr]

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