Is Auction Facing Another Class Action Litigation?
e-Bay Subsidiary Facing More Complaints About Personal Information Leaks
By Oh Young-jin
Is e-Bay's trouble with Auction, its Korean subsidiary, limited to an upcoming class action suit by lawyers representing over some 10 million people whose private information was allegedly leaked in February?
The Korea Consumer Agency, the state-affiliated watchdog, said it has received 185 complaints from users of Auction, the American giant's Korean subsidiary, in the first half of this year, with 98 cases related to alleged leaks of personal information.
The agency is not planning to go easy on Auction, saying that it is inviting unreported victims to file complaints by the end of the month.
``When the deadline comes, our committee will review the cases,'' Shin Yong-mook, an agency official, told The Korea Times during a telephone interview.
Shin said that the committee will conduct semi-legal procedures, calling in representatives of the company as well as those for the victims. The procedure is expected to last for up to three months, with the committee coming up with recommendations including monetary compensation packages. If the parties involved don't accept these, they case could go to court.
``Our proceedings are separate from what is going on with the `leak scandal' of sorts involving over 10 million online users,'' Shin said, adding that the outcome of the committee's meetings will be hard to predict. ``I don't know how many will file complaints with us, although they are invited to do so.''
An Auction official had no comments about consumers' complaints with the agency, citing potential effects on the forthcoming opening of the ``leakgate'' trial.
Regarding the scandal, brisk efforts are under way for victims to organize themselves in possibly the biggest class action suit in the country's history.
The first session of the trial is expected later this year.
The Auction leak scandal is considered the biggest, together with the leaking of personal information by employees of a subsidiary of GS Caltex, who downloaded the information of 11 million customers onto compact disks before trying to sell it to the highest bidder. There has been a move by victims to organize themselves for a class action suit with billions of dollars estimated in compensation, if they win.
Auction is now under the total control of global auction giant e-Bay, which has recently been cleared to take over G-Market by Korean fair trade officials, leading to the creation of a firm that will control 90 percent of the country's online open market. e-Bay is apparently placing top priority on its global expansion, engaged in a series of takeovers throughout the world, while announcing a sizable cut of its employees on its home turf
There were reports that about 20,000 victims had joined the class action against Auction, however, there are no exact numbers available because individual lawyers are representing different groups of victims.
A source close to Auction, however, said that some who enlisted themselves on the list of victims in the complaint were requesting their names be withdrawn.
Auction's leak scandal was triggered by a case of hacking. This was followed by a flood of major leaks by corporations of customer information, with the concerned firms ranging from Hanaro Telecom, which has been absorbed into SK Telecom, to GS Caltex and other telecom companies.