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First Ruling: Pay Each Person 300,000 Won

Posted June. 29, 2005 06:01,   


A court ruled for the first time that mobile phone service providers must compensate for psychological damages suffered by their service users who were subscribed for and charged for additional services without giving their consent.

The ruling reveals that such service providers should pay consolation money to these victims even though they returned the money that had been unfairly charged to the customers since using the subscribers’ information without their permission is a violation of privacy.

The civil court at the Seoul Central District Court (Chief Justice: Choi Byung-cheol) ruled on June 28 that Korean mobile phone service provider KTF must pay each plaintiff 300,000 won on the compensation claim suit led by “Kang”(28) along with 145 people against KTF. The group claimed that KTF subscribed them to an additional service known as MagicN and charged them by using their personal information.

MagicN is an additional service that allows subscribers to download games or songs and check stock information by accessing wireless Internet through an individual’s mobile phone. KTF took money from Kang and other subscribers for a basic fare and service use every month after it enlisted them in the service without their permission.

The court said, “The plaintiffs have suffered psychological pain as the company violated their privacy and freedom by using their personal information,” and added, “The company returned the money that was unfairly charged to the customers and offered free 30-minute calls to the victims, but it is hard to think that KTF has compensated the victims sufficiently.”

The suit was followed by the announcement made by the Communications Commission under the Ministry of Information and Communications on February 2002 that 73,718 KTF service users out of 770,596 were affected after the commission conducted investigations into the practice of mobile phone service providers. At that time, KTF had to pay 280 million won in fines.

Victims and civil organizations filed a lawsuit against KTF in July 2002 for infringing the laws on “the Promotion of Information and Communication Network Use and Personal Information Protection” before the Seoul Central District Court. The court ordered KTF to pay a 20 million won fine.

The victims also raised a separate complaint before the civil court at the same district that their privacy was infringed by KTF. The June 28 decision was a response for this claim.

It is reported that there are more than 70,000 mobile phone service users who did not participate in the suit even though they had been affected, so it is highly possible that a series of similar lawsuits will follow.

People`s Solidarity for Participatory Democracy which had led the suit, said, “According to the Communications Commission, SK Telecom and LG Telecom also committed similar illegal acts, but the number of cases was so small and did not face criminal punishment, therefore no lawsuits were filed against the companies.”

Ji-Seong Jeon verso@donga.com