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FTC hints at review of anti-monoply platform act

Feb. 7, 2024 - 18:01 By Jie Ye-eun
Fair Trade Commission Vice Chair Cho Hong-sun delivers welcoming remarks during a briefing held at the Korea Fair Trade Mediation Agency in Seoul in November. (Newsis)

South Korea's antitrust regulator on Wednesday said it would review its proposed act aimed at regulating monopolistic practices by major online platform players before making a further legislation push, as opposition voices grow.

“We’re communicating extensively with the (related) industries here and abroad and stakeholders to legislate the platform act. … Rather than making the bill public shortly, it was deemed desirable to further collect opinions from the industry and academia,” the Fair Trade Commission Vice Chair Cho Hong-sun said in a press conference held at the government complex in Sejong.

The regulator’s considerable elements include the bill's key content that deals with the preliminary designation of the list of monopolistic platform companies and restricts them from engaging in “unfair” practices such as favoring their affiliates and preventing "multihoming," or the practice of connecting simultaneously to multiple platforms.

The vice chair said the regulator will explore whether there is an alternative to the preliminary designation that would make similar effects with less impact on the market, although there has been sufficient consultation on the platform bill among ministries and significant consensus has formed already.

The regulator has not yet announced specific ways to classify those groups. However, both industry and the National Assembly voices expressed concerns over the planned introduction of the regulations, saying they are “excessive.” Some even showed concerns over the possibility of trade conflicts when designating foreign companies as dominant platform operators.

Recently, the US Chamber of Commerce openly opposed a proposed act, voicing concerns over the apparent rush to pass the law. Charles Freeman, senior vice president for Asia at the US Chamber, issued a statement warning Seoul on the push for the rules and called for transparency and open dialogue with Korea’s antitrust regulator that “an action of this magnitude requires.”

Following Wednesday’s announcement, delays in the regulator's push to legislate and implement the Platform Fair Competition Act became inevitable.

The FTC initially planned to unveil the platform around the four-day Lunar New Year's holiday that begins Friday and push the bill through legislation before the general election in April, as dominant online and mobile platform players’ influence has been growing at an alarming rate here.

The watchdog vice chair stressed that its plan for the platform act legislation push "remains unchanged," and if there is "no suitable alternative" other than preliminary designation to regulate the market, it would enforce legislative measures as its original plan.