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[Newsmaker] Mergepoint saga sparks flood of complaints in Aug.

The exterior of Merge Plus headquarters in Seoul. (Yonhap)
The exterior of Merge Plus headquarters in Seoul. (Yonhap)
Amid the snowballing fiasco of prepaid discount service Mergepoint that played out in August, the number of consumer requested consultations regarding the scandal marked more than 16,000, according to data provided by the Korea Consumer Agency and Korea National Council of Consumer Organizations Friday.

The consumer consultation center operated by South Korea’s Fair Trade Commission received 16,188 inquiries from consumers requiring consultations about their complaints and damages over the Mergepoint chaos last month, accounting for nearly 24 percent of the total number of cases it handled during August.

Consumer complaints due to the Mergepoint saga pushed August’s figure to soar 18.7 percent on-month to 66,735. It also went up by 5.1 percent from a year earlier, the data showed.

The majority of prepaid service users asked how to get an immediate reimbursement from the online discount app operator Merge Plus, and expressed their difficulties in reaching the service provider, KCA officials said.

Merge Plus launched Mergepoint, an electronic payment service, in 2018. The service gained popularity in the country as consumers were able to buy so-called mergepoints at a 20 percent discount on the regular price and use them at about 60,000 stores nationwide, including retail franchises, convenience stores and coffee shops.

After building trust with various big franchise firms and consumers, the average number of daily users stood at 200,000. But the company’s demise began when it suddenly halted its sales of Mergepoint and scaled back its much-touted financial reward service last month, following the financial authorities’ notification that Merge Plus was not legally registered as an electronic finance business under the related financial law.

While some 150 consumers filed a class action lawsuit against the company for damage compensation on Sept. 17, the Merge Plus CEO is expected to face further scrutiny at the National Assembly’s annual audit scheduled for next month.

Yun Chang-hyun of the main opposition People Power Party, requested the prepaid discount service operator’s CEO Kwon Nam-hee attend the National Assembly’s annual inspection of state affairs as a witness. The request came amid Merge Plus’ rampant fraud under suspicion of having unregistered its business as an electronic financial service provider.

By Jie Ye-eun (yeeun@heraldcorp.com)
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