South Korea cracks down on offshore e-commerce, with seeming focus on China

Seoul wants AliExpress and Temu to step up customer service, maybe Meta too

South Korea's Fair Trade Commission has announced a raft of measures aimed at ensuring offshore e-commerce services meet their service and support obligations. And it looks to be aimed squarely at Chinese retailers.

A Wednesday edict dubbed the "Comprehensive consumer protection measures related to overseas online platforms" outlines initiatives that will ensure offshore e-commerce services have the same obligations as their South Korean cousins.

The Fair Trade Commission explained that the measures are needed because cross-border e-commerce has boomed – and so have consumer complaints. South Korea's government has heard those gripes and decided to act.

Changes to legislation are therefore imminent – to do things like require offshore e-commerce players of a certain size to appoint local agents who handle customer service inquiries. Those agents will be charged with ensuring South Korean consumer protection laws are enforced on behalf of local buyers.

South Korean authorities also plan to inspect e-commerce operators' apps, to ensure their privacy policies align with local law.

Increased inspection of incoming goods to detect counterfeits is another element of South Korea's plan. When faked products are found, the platforms that sell them will be asked to stop them appearing for sale. Provisions to block ads that promote illegal goods are also on the agenda.

Antimonopoly laws will also be applied – to the letter – if offshore players abuse their market power in ways that make life hard for local merchants.

Dangerous goods and health products are also in the regulator's sights, as are adult products sold to minors.

Another element of the Commission's plan is creating a helpline for consumers.

Korean media reports that the Commission hopes to secure an agreement with Chinese e-tailers AliExpress and Temu to help with much of the above.

The two are considered very significant sources of consumer complaints.

South Korea is thought to be investigating both as part of a wider antitrust push that will also see local authorities consider Google's and Meta's dominance of digital advertising.

The Commission also wants to consider whether Meta does enough to help users of Facebook and Instagram when transactions conducted on those platforms go sour. ®

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