FTC set to give up exclusive right to file cases

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FTC set to give up exclusive right to file cases

Korea’s antitrust watchdog said Sunday that it will give up its exclusive right to file complaints against retail and franchise firms for fair trade violations in a move to better empower individuals and civic groups.

Under the present Fair Trade Act, the Fair Trade Commission (FTC) is the only entity that can bring a fair trade case to court through the state prosecutors’ office. The law is aimed at preventing a flood of lawsuits being filed against firms by individuals and civic groups, which the business community claims could hurt normal operations.

FTC Chairman Kim Sang-jo, a renowned former civic activist, has constantly vowed to change the rule within President Moon Jae-in’s five-year term as part of its policy goal of establishing fairer market competition and shared growth between conglomerates and smaller businesses.

In a draft report submitted by a task force team, the FTC’s exclusive right will be first removed in the franchise and retail business field, where unfair trade practices, such as abuses of power by large retailers, are prevalent.

Such a step would allow individuals and civic groups to lodge legal action against rule-breaking companies in the sector.

The FTC said it will examine the feasibility of expanding the range of businesses that can be subject to legal proceedings by non-FTC entities.

“The FTC monopolizes the entire process of corporate conflicts from the beginning to end,” Kim said in a press conference held Friday. “Only the FTC is entitled to launch an investigation and to put an end to it at its discretion. This leaves victims with no way of seeking administrative or legal remedies.”

He said he will keep making efforts to address the problem and decentralize FTC power by granting the same rights to other entities, including provincial governments and civic groups.

Also, the task force suggested the FTC introduce a punitive damages system to the local distribution industry in order to root out unfair business practices and strengthen consumer protection.

A few bills related to these matters have long been held up at the National Assembly, which must pass the bill before it becomes a law.

At the same time, the FTC chief said the watchdog will wield its authority in a tougher way and file suits against all corporate offenders.

“The FTC has been criticized for being too reluctant to exercise its exclusive right and promote fair trade,” said Kim. “The FTC will bring many more cases to the court and lodge complaints against executives and even working-level officials involved in any misconduct.”

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