FTC cracks down on squabbling among water purifier makers

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FTC cracks down on squabbling among water purifier makers

The Fair Trade Commission (FTC) ordered domestic suppliers of water purifiers to rectify their false and defamatory advertisements yesterday.

According to the FTC, ChungHo Nais ran an advertisement falsely claiming that its water purifier received recognition from the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

The agency also said LG Electronics, though its Hiplaza brand, ran ads insulting products by No. 1 industry player Woongjin Coway and calling and deriding them as being unsanitary.

Consumers became especially sensitive to the threat of leaks of radioactive material into water supplies since the Fukushima-Daiichi nuclear plant disaster in Japan in March last year.

After this, ChungHo Nais began publicly claiming that the EPA has recognized its reverse osmosis system of water purifiers. Reverse osmosis is a processing technology to remove the radioactive material from drinking water.

However, the FTC pointed out that the EPA only suggested the company’s reverse osmosis membrane filter was one of many ways to remove radioactive material. It has never officially commented on the performance of ChungHo Nais’ product.

The FTC added that competitors like Woongjin Coway and LG Electronics sell similar products but ChungHo Nais misled consumers into thinking that its were better and safer.

The FTC also ordered Hiplaza to change desktop calendars displayed at its stores since August last year allegedly slandering Woongjin Coway.

These showed pictures of the latter’s water purifiers featuring derisive comments such as “Self-sterilizing water purifier? But does it work properly?”

Hiplaza also broadcast a program on TV screens at its own stores drawing attention to implicit weaknesses of rival purifiers, which the FTC deemed was also a slanderous form of advertising.

“These two cases have arisen in the course of aggressive promotional activities .?.?. between the industry’s two biggest water purifier operators Woongjin Coway and ChungHo Nais,” said Lee Tae-hwi, head of the consumer products department at the FTC.

Woongjin Coway holds a 56 percent market share followed by ChungHo Nais with 12 percent.

“We plan to strengthen our surveillance measures to improve consumer protection and ensure fair competition in the market,” said Lee.

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