Direct imports lead to complaints

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Direct imports lead to complaints

Mr. Kim recently ordered a 60-inch TV from abroad for 2.3 million won ($1,944). He used a company that specializes in buying products overseas, where retail prices are cheaper than in Korea.

The company first asked Kim to pay 100,000 won for an insurance policy in case damage was done to the set during delivery. A few days later, the company upped the price to 400,000 won because the TV was so heavy. Then it charged him 200,000 won for delivery. The price of the TV was reaching 3 million won.

Kim tried canceling the order but the company demanded he pay for its losses. So he ended up buying it.

Korean consumers buying products from overseas used to stick to fashion and smaller items. In recent years, they’ve been expanding their shopping lists to include electronics like TVs and tablets.

But as the number of such purchases has grown, so have the number of complaints about problems like delivery mishaps and overcharging of fees.

According to the Korea Consumer Agency Monday, the number of complaints about direct overseas purchases totalled 3,412 in the first half of 2015. This was almost triple the number during the first half of 2014.

The biggest number of complaints was about proxy shopping service companies, which accounted for 82.5 percent.

The most common complaint was delivery mishaps, including the shipment going to the wrong address or the product never being delivered. Such complaints accounted for 35.2 percent of the total. Delivery complaints grew 11 percent from the previous year.

The second most common complaint was excessive charges on cancelled orders or returned products, which accounted for nearly 22 percent. Faulty products and problems with after sales service was the third most common complaint at 15 percent.

By products, consumers had the most complaints for fashion items including shoes, which account for 53.3 percent. But questions to the agency about electronics like TVs and tablets, as well as health-related products have more than tripled from a year ago.

More Koreans have been purchasing electronics as word has spread prices for such products abroad are cheaper than in Seoul.

“There has been a growing number of people buying large-sized TVs in preparation for their weddings as well as those who have been buying health products like diet pills that are manufactured overseas,” said an official at the Korea Consumer Agency.

The consumer protection agency plans to set up a separate website to exclusively handle international purchases by the end of this year. It plans on providing information on proxy shopping companies that have received numerous complaints as well as those that are suspected of fraud.


BY LEE SO-AH [lee.hojeong@joongang.co.kr]

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