Half-priced TV sets facing backlash
By Kwon Mee-yoo
A “Half-priced” promotion swept the nation from fried chicken to tablet PCs, and televisions are no exception to the big price break.
However, cheap TVs are facing a backlash as a growing number of consumers are complaining about poor after-sales services.
The Korea Consumer Agency, a local civic group designed to protect consumer rights, is seeing a lot of complaints on its Website about low-price TVs.
One customer, who did not give his name but his gender as a male, expressed dissatisfaction about the low-price TV he bought from a discount store.
The customer bought the TV but later found out that the product did not function properly. So he called the hyper market where he purchased the TV, but the mall told him to contact the after-sales service agent, instead of giving a refund.
"Both the store and service center refused to take responsibility. They are just blaming each other. I don't know what to do," the customer wrote on the message board.
Previously, the local TV market was dominated by large-sized TVs over 40 inches produced by major companies such as Samsung Electronics and LG Electronics, but the low-priced televisions changed the dynamic.
The half-price television war began February 2011, when Lotte Mart introduced a 24-inch TV/monitor at 299,000 won.
E-Mart continued the boom by launching Dream View, a 32-inch LED TV, produced by Taiwanese company TPV at 499,000 won. A television with similar size and specifications from top brands was sold at over 800,000 won and the price immediately proved its competitive edge as all 5,000 TVs were sold in two days.
Discount chains joined hands with small enterprises to produce more affordable televisions. These cheap models only have basic functions and do not have many extra features.
For instance, E-Mart Dream View has one High Definition Multimedia Interface (HDMI) socket and PC input, while the same size televisions from larger firms have more and additional functions such as flash disk input and automatic power-off.
The half-price television war has expanded to high-end ones.
Online marketplaces such as Gmarket and 11th Street introduced 42-inch 3D televisions for less than 800,000 won in March. The price was about 50 percent cheaper than other 3D TVs and the limited quantity quickly sold out.
With the success of department stores and major electronics companies, smaller firms jumped into the price-cutting race over televisions.
Department stores emphasized that they provide proper after-sales service. Lotte Department Store had 10,000 32-inch LED TVs manufactured by Daewoo Display, priced at 449,000 won.
They can be repaired at Daewoo Elec Service. Lotte said they used display panels from a Korean company, while others used cheaper ones from China.
Hyundai sells Woosung Enterprise's 32-inch and 42-inch full HD televisions at 499,000 won and 729,000 won, respectively, and customers can receive follow-up service from Woori Technology.
Electronics giant Samsung and LG released distribution model TVs in March, following the demand for more affordable TVs.
Samsung and LG's models are priced at around 700,000 won, about 100,000 won cheaper than their original models. They said that the quality and after-sales service have already earned credibility from customers, which would offset the disadvantages of the slightly higher price.
According to the industry, about 40,000 half-price televisions were sold last year, which is about 2 percent of annual television set market around 2 million.
"Poor after-sales service might lead to distrust in half-price products overall," an industry source said.