Taiwan’s Fair Trade Commission is investigating charges that Samsung paid students to attack rival HTC’s smartphones online. The South Korean tech giant could potentially face a fine of up to NTD $25 million ($835,000 USD) if the charges of false advertising are upheld.
Samsung’s Taiwanese agent allegedly hired students to write online articles attacking HTC and recommending Samsung handsets. In response, Samsung’s Taiwan office posted a note on its Facebook page apologizing for “any inconvenience and confusion” and saying it “has halted all Internet marketing such as posting articles on Web sites.”
This is not the first time that Samsung has been in hot water with the Taiwanese Fair Trade Commission–back in January, it disclosed that it had been fined NTD $300,000 (about $10,389 USD) for an advertisement that featured “misleading” information about the Samsung Galaxy Y Duos GT-S6012. Samsung was charged with falsely stating in online and catalog advertisements that the phone has automatic focus and flash functions, which it doesn’t. And last fall, Toshiba Samsung Storage Technology (a joint venture of the two companies) was fined, along with several other companies, for fixing the prices of optical disc drives.
If the current crop of charges against Samsung are true, the tactics seem rather heavy-handed. According to IDC, Samsung currently has a 30.3 percent chunk of the global smartphone market, while HTC holds just a 4.6 percent slice. Despite rave reviews for the HTC One and the release of the HTC First Facebook Home phone, the Taiwanese company has struggled over the past year as its sales slumped, due in large part to the delayed release of the HTC One.