Online bookstores fined for false ‘best-seller’ lists

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Online bookstores fined for false ‘best-seller’ lists

Four of the nation’s largest online bookstores are believed to have misled customers by putting unwarranted books on their “recommended” or “best-selling” lists after receiving hefty advertising fees from the publishers, according to the Fair Trade Commission (FTC) yesterday.

Yes 24, Interpark, Kyobo Bookstore and Aladdin received up to 2.5 million won ($2,300) per book for adding them to their weekly lists of “much anticipated new releases” and “books with the most reviews,” among other highlighted sections.

This provided the four online bookstores with extra revenue of 1.4 billion won in total over 18 months ending in July this year, the FTC said.

The country’s fair trade watchdog imposed a combined fine of 25 million won and ordered them to post notices online for the next five days informing customers that they had been deceived.

“When customers see titles on these lists they naturally assume the books meet some kind of quality standard or level of popularity,” said Sung Kyung-je, manager of the FTC’s electronic trade division.

“But the bookstores simply added them to the lists without telling users that this was included in the advertising fees.”

Interpark was ordered to pay 10 million won, while other three were fined 5 million won each.

To prevent consumers falling for disguised advertisements in the future, the FTC plans to have bookstores clarify the basis on which they put books on their “recommended” or “best-selling” lists.

The FTC is set to inspect another 30 online shopping malls that sell books to see if they have been deceiving customers.

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

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