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South Korean regulator to probe in-app payments, creates new 'team' to look into digital ads

The usual suspects are accused of anti-competitive behaviour, naughtiness with data

South Korea’s Fair Trade Commission has set up a new team dedicated to investigating abuse of dominance and competition concerns in online ads.

The Commission is concerned that Facebook, Google, and other web giants have amassed so much data they have an advantage over rivals, and are using their power to distort the market with three business practices:

  • Forcing customers to acquire unnecessary services when they buy ads;
  • Preventing customers from buying ads on rival services;
  • Illegal and deceptive collection of user data and combining it to fuel customised advertising products.

The regulator said it created the new team because it needs people focused on the issues in the digital advertising market, to ensure faster investigations and resolution of issues raised by market participants and individuals.

The Commission already operates an ICT division that itself has units which oversee markets for apps, e-commerce platforms, the semiconductor, and intellectual property rights.

The app-focused group will now be expanded, as the Commission has decided to have a look at the issue of in-app payments after noting that other jurisdictions have done likewise.

South Korea’s probe will keep an eye on the Apple vs. Epic Games case in the US, as well as litigation taking place in other nations and will investigate the market power enjoyed by Apple and Google.

The Commission is seemingly unafraid to take on big tech, having fined Qualcomm $853m for using patent licensing to stymie rivals’ sales, and not only fining Apple $84m over its monopolistic tendencies but also recommending prosecution for staffers whom it alleged had played dead when investigators came calling. ®

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