Posted November. 13, 2012 09:02,
Korea`s major online bookstores have been penalized by the Fair Trade Commission for misleading customers about books via taking money for advertising from publishers and falsely introducing the latter`s books as bestsellers.
The fair trade watchdog said on Monday that it issued corrective orders to Yes 24, Interpark, Kyobo Bookstore and Aladin and imposed on them combined fines of 25 million won (22,946 U.S. dollars).
The online bookstores introduced new books via corners named "Trending Hot," "Hot Clicks," "Recommended" and "Best Books in the News." They received 500,000 (458 dollars) to 2.5 million won (2,294 dollars) in ad fees per book from publishing companies and displayed them on the main pages of their websites for a week.
Kyobo introduced 319 books on its "Best Books in Review" corner from May last year to July 27 this year, reaping 100 million won (91,785 dollars) in ad sales. Aladin recommended 953 books on its four corners including "Best Books in the News," earning 667 million won (615,000 dollars) in ad sales.
The four online bookstores were fined and had to post notices on their websites` main pages that they were issued a corrective order.
The commission said the corners could mislead consumers that the books were evaluated under objective criteria, adding failure to say they introduced books from publishers that paid ad fees constitutes fraud.
As the commission`s investigation began at the end of June this year, online bookstores have since changed the names of corners that could prove problematic. Kyobo renamed its "Most Reviewed Books" corner to "Books in Review." Interpark re-titled "Trending Hot" to "Anticipated Books by Publishers." Yes 24 left its banner ad unchanged and just erased the title of the corner in the ad.
Online bookstores admit that their promotional activities could be misleading but complained that the commission ignored the innate features of an online shopping mall. An employee of an online bookstore said, "This is a general advertising method used by portal sites and other Web shopping malls."
But the commission said, "The quality of books cannot be judged from their appearance. They are different from clothing and electronics products," adding, "Consumers tend to rely on institutions that have public confidence or expert recommendations when purchasing books. Bookstores should thus clearly release their assessment criteria or whether the book was introduced via advertising demands."
The watchdog will continue monitoring the country`s remaining 30 shopping malls that sell books for violations.