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Korean antitrust agency chief to review Google’s 'unfair fees'

Fair Trade Commission Chairperson Joh Sung-wook (Yonhap)
Fair Trade Commission Chairperson Joh Sung-wook (Yonhap)
Joh Sung-wook, chairperson of the Fair Trade Commission, will look into Google’s purported anti-competitive practice of taking 30 percent commission on in-app purchases.

Joh, speaking at the National Assembly’s inspection of the FTC on Thursday, said that what Google does may eventually affect the end-consumer, and that its monopoly of the market calls for a review.

Upon being asked whether the Monopoly Regulation and Fair Trade Act may apply in the case of Google’s 30 percent transaction fee, Joh answered, “The Act applies in the cases where a market-dominant player undermines fair competitions.”

“I do believe in this industry, there is an absence of proper competition,” Joh said.

She also said that an inspection is currently taking place to identify any anti-competitive practices, in order to restore competition in the market.

Google had said at the end of September that it will take 30 percent transaction fees on all in-app purchases on apps downloadable through the Google Play app market, effective from an unspecified time in 2021.

As for Naver, the Korean equivalent of Google, which was recently found guilty of manipulating algorithms of its e-commerce and video platforms to display in-house products on top of competing businesses’, Joh said she believes the same malpractice could happen in Naver’s various services other than shopping.

She added, however, that “It is not the algorithm manipulation that we found problematic, but the self-preferential product positioning.”

The FTC is undertaking an overhaul of the regulations related to online platforms.

“There will be a restructuring of e-commerce platforms’ legal responsibilities for consumer rights protection” Joh said in the opening remarks of her presentation on the day.

“Through enacting relevant laws for online platforms, we will prepare the grounds for fair trade and multiparty collaborations in the digital ecosystem,” Joh said.

By Lim Jeong-yeo (kaylalim@heraldcorp.com)
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