Posted : 2012-03-18 17:03
Updated : 2012-03-18 17:03

FTC fines Samsung for obstructing probe

The Fair Trade Commission has been investigating whether Samsung Electronics has been excessively charging Korean consumers for their mobile phones. / Korea Times
By Kim Tae-jong

Korea’s anti-trust regulator has fined technology giant Samsung Electronics 400 million won (about $354,000) for obstructing an investigation into whether collusion took place between the company and wireless operators to fix prices of mobile-phones, thereby defrauding consumers. It marks the biggest fine ever levied by the watchdog for such charges.

Security guards at a Samsung Electronic’s plant in Suwon, Gyeonggi Province, barred investigators from entering during a raid last March and destroyed critical evidence, the Fair Trade Commission (FTC) announced Sunday. The investigators were collecting data to determine if handsets were excessively expensive here while sold for much lower prices abroad.

Investigators were prevented from entering the Samsung plant for about half an hour, during which time employees destroyed important documents and switched computers. Investigators were only able to enter the premises after calling in the police.

The FTC issued a 200 million won fine for obstructing the investigation and another 100 million won for submitting fake documents. It also added a 50 million won fine for two company executives who gave the orders to obstruct the probe.

These fines are the highest according to related laws for companies attempting to hinder, refuse or dodge FTC investigations.

They exceed the 340 million won penalty given to CJ Cheil Jedang, Korea’s top food company, and the FTC said the heavy penalty was due to Samsung Electronics’ systematically obstructing their investigation stemming from management’s orders.

“Samsung employees systematically responded to our probe as if they had been trained to prepare for such events,” an FTC official said, citing internal reports obtained from Samsung. “It also turned out executives were behind the employees barring our probe.”

In an internal report submitted by the security guards, they received an order to prevent the investigators from entering the facility, and in another report by one of employees, they replaced three personal computers at the request of a manager from the general affairs department, the official said.

He added the agency secured video clips from a surveillance camera installed in the facility, which showed employees removing documents right after they were informed of the investigation.

The FTC pledged to take stern action against any activity obstructing the probe.

“We will take every countermeasure to root out illegal attempts to tamper with our investigation,” the official said. “We will not only levy heavy fines but also closely monitoring such firms.”
관련 한글 기사

`공정위 조사 방해' 삼성전자에 최고과태료

삼성전자가 공정거래위원회 조사를 상습적으로 방해한 혐의로 역대 최고 액수의 과태료 부과조치를 당했다.

공정거래위원회는 삼성전자 임직원들이 조사를 조직적으로 방해한 혐의에 대해 4억원의 과태료를 부과하기로 했다고 18일 밝혔다.

이 액수는 조사방해와 관련한 역대 최고 액수다. 그동안 CJ제일제당 3억4천만원, 에스케이커뮤니케이션즈 1억2천500만원, 이베이지마켓 2억5천만원, 삼성토탈 1억8천500만원, 삼성자동차 1억2천만원, 현대하이스코 5천만원 등 순으로 많았다.

삼성전자는 휴대전화 가격 부풀리기 의혹에 대한 조사가 시작되자 각종 방해를 일삼았으며 이를 뒷받침하는 다양한 증거를 포착했다고 공정위가 밝혔다.

공정위에 따르면 삼성전자 수원사업장 휴대전화 유통관련 현장조사를 벌인 지난해 3월24일 임직원 다수가 조사를 막았다.

삼성전자 보안담당 직원, 용역업체 직원들이 공정위 조사요원들의 출입을 지연시키는 동안 조사대상 부서원들은 관련자료를 폐기하고 컴퓨터를 교체했다는 것이다.

조사대상부서의 부서장은 조사를 거부하고 조사공무원들이 철수하고서 사무실로 돌아와 본인 컴퓨터에 저장된 자료를 삭제했다.

이 밖에 회사 고위 임원들의 지휘로 조사 방해가 상습적으로 이뤄지고 불법 행위를 축소하려고 허위 자료를 제출했으며 신속한 협조보다는 조사요원의 출입을 어렵게 하는 방향으로 보안을 강화한 점 등을 파악했다고 공정위는 전했다.

공정위는 휴대전화 가격을 부풀리고서 마치 엄청난 할인혜택을 부여하는 것처럼 소비자를 속인 사건과 관련해 과징금 23억8천만원을 결정할 때 조사방해 행위를 반영했다고 설명했다.

공정위는 "기업들의 조사 방해가 나날이 교묘해지고 있다. 불공정행위의 적발ㆍ시정을 어렵게 하는 기업에는 모든 법적 수단을 동원해 강력하게 대응하겠다"며 현장진입 지연 등에는 형벌을 적용할 계획이라고 경고했다.

지난달 27일 국회를 통과한 공정거래법 개정안에는 폭언, 폭행, 현장진입 지연ㆍ저지 등 조사방해에 형벌(3년 이하 징역, 2억원 이하 벌금)을 부과하는 조항이 신설됐다. (연합뉴스)

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