Taiwan's Fair Trade Commission has fined Samsung 10m New Taiwan Dollars ($340,510) after the South Korean giant hired an army of commentards to diss the handsets of rival HTC and praise its own smartphones.
The trade commission started its investigation into Samsung in April after a website called TaiwanSamsungLeaks.org began publishing internal documents from the company outlining the scam, and some of the online scribblings left by the comment-for-hire crew about hardware from Taiwan-headquartered HTC.
In the ruling (which didn't mention HTC by name as the target of the astroturfing) the authorities said the practice violated Section 24 of Taiwan's Fair Trade Law. In addition to Samsung getting a slap on the wrist, local firms Peng Thai and Dolly Company were fined NTD$3m ($102,153) and NTD$50,000 ($1,703) respectively.
"We are disappointed that the Taiwan FTC has decided that we have violated the Fair Trade Act based on online marketing activities. However, we remain committed to engaging in transparent and honest communication with consumers," a Samsung spokesperson told VatorNews.
"Samsung Electronics Taiwan is carefully reviewing the decision and will take all necessary steps to protect our reputation as a company which values its customers. Samsung Electronics Taiwan will continue to provide exceptional value for consumers in Taiwan through a wide variety of innovative products and services."
It's been a tough time for Samsung in Taiwan this year. In January the Taiwanese FTC fined the company NTD$300,000 ($10,215) for false advertising. The firm claimed its Galaxy Y Duos GT-S6102 phone had an automatic focus and flash functions, when it had neither.
Meanwhile, back on the mainland in China, the South Korean firm was forced to make a humiliating apology on television following an investigation by state media on the reliability – or lack thereof – of its Galaxy S3 and Note 2 smartphones. ®