The Korea Customs Service announced on Nov. 20 that South Korean consumers’ overseas direct purchase totaled US$1.58 billion in the first half of this year, US$260 million more than in the same period of the previous year. According to the Korea Consumer Agency, the number of consumer complaints concerning overseas direct purchase increased from 9,482 to 11,081 during the same period.
In most cases, the complaints are because overseas shopping malls are late in delivery or refuse to give a refund despite contract terms, and yet domestic laws are hardly applicable to such cases.
It is in this regard that global online travel agencies Agoda and Booking.com filed an administrative lawsuit in March this year against the domestic law stipulating that a consumer can cancel his or her purchase contract with an online seller within seven days. “It is practically impossible for domestic laws alone to deal with issues between South Korean consumers and foreign businesses that are not related to wrongful deeds,” the agency explained, adding, “Besides, it is impossible to block such businesses institutionally.”
Experts point out that more cooperation with overseas consumer organizations can be a solution and such cooperation with the United States and China is especially urgent in that they account for 46 percent and 33 percent of South Korean consumers’ overseas direct purchase, respectively. At present, related agreements are in effect between South Korea and 11 countries, including the United States, Japan, Hong Kong and Vietnam, and a similar one is in the making with China.