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Court awards damages to customers of Homeplus

Jan 19,2018
A Seoul court on Thursday ordered a local hypermarket chain to pay its customers a total of 80 million won ($74,871) in damages for selling their personal information to two life insurance companies without consent.

The Seoul Central District Court made the ruling partially in favor of some 1,067 loyalty card holders of Homeplus and awarded them 83.6 million won, or between 50,000 and 200,000 won for every plaintiff.

It also ordered the two life insurers - Lina Life Insurance Korea and Shinhan Life Insurance - to assume some of the payouts.

The customers filed litigation in 2015 claiming that Homeplus sold to the insurers over 24 million pieces of private information collected through promotional events between 2011 and mid-2014, and gained illicit profits of 23.1 billion won. They demanded the company pay them 300,000 won per customer.

Homeplus has insisted that customers did give consent since they signed the entry coupon for the promotion. The ticket did explain on the back that signing it means agreeing to give the information to third parties for marketing purposes, but the letters were so small - about 1 millimeter - that they were difficult to read with the naked eye and were effectively tantamount to no notification at all.

The court acknowledged that providing such info to outside firms without properly notifying the customers or seeking their consent is “an illegal act that infringes on a person’s right to make a decision about his personal details.”

The court, however, dismissed the argument that the insurers had colluded in or aided and abetted the illegal act.

A series of similar lawsuits against Homeplus’ selling of customer information is ongoing following a Supreme Court ruling in April last year made on one of the first cases, which found the whole process of collecting customer data through promotional coupons unlawful.

Top executives of Homeplus have been put on criminal trial and convicted for involvement in the illegal act.

Yonhap