The Korea Herald


Antitrust watchdog to launch large-scale survey on e-commerce platforms

By Kim Hae-yeon

Published : March 25, 2024 - 15:10

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With the rapid influx of global e-commerce into the domestic market, the Fair Trade Commission is set to launch an extensive market survey starting Tuesday, to examine the evolving landscape and structure of the e-commerce market in Korea.

The survey marks the first step in gathering data to produce a policy report slated for release by the end of this year. The report's objective is to proactively identify and analyze fair trade and consumer issues arising from shifts in e-commerce market structure.

"Given the swift changes in the e-commerce market, we have established a dedicated team since February, which will operate until the end of the year," an FTC official said. "We aim for the analysis to facilitate communication between the government, market and consumers, ultimately serving as a fundamental reference for enforcing legal regulations in the future."

The FTC's survey will unfold through three stages: preliminary market research, a survey of major e-commerce players, and data collection and analysis.

Opinions from stakeholders and industry experts will be sought from Tuesday to April 22 during the pre-market research phase, which will be the foundation for deciding up-to-date agendas, survey targets and research methods.

Relevant associations, organizations and the general public are openly invited to give their input via email.

The FTC has cited several global competition authorities conducting market studies and publishing their findings in policy reports as references.

For instance, the UK's Competition and Markets Authority conducts market research primarily based on report submissions, and has completed studies on online platforms, electric vehicle charging and music streaming platforms in the past.

Similarly, the European Commission's Market Condition Survey identifies dysfunctional areas or agreements where competition law violations might occur. The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission's Market Status Survey continuously gathers and analyzes data on digital platform services, maintaining a process of ongoing information collection.

Meanwhile, domestic markets have voiced concerns, calling on the government for stronger investigation and penalties in regards to overseas platforms.

"It will be challenging for such a market report to have a tangible impact on the rapidly evolving overseas e-commerce landscape, which undergoes constant changes," an official from a domestic e-commerce company said. "The nature of e-commerce strategies makes continuous adaptation inevitable. The government should actively involve consumers and domestic firms to adeptly tackle the situation and give out precise guidelines."

Meanwhile, at an emergency economic-related ministers’ meeting held on March 13, the FTC unveiled measures to tackle market concerns regarding reverse discrimination on domestic platforms, citing the expanding market share of Chinese direct purchase platforms.

The step includes amending e-commerce laws to require larger foreign businesses to designate domestic agents for consumer protection. The aim is to enhance regulation enforcement and ensure prompt responses to violations.

Additionally, the Korean Intellectual Property Office and the Korea Customs Service will propose trademark law revisions, strengthening border controls for overseas purchases and improving counterfeit detection during customs clearance.