Korean telcos fined over subsidies once again

Dylan Bushell-Embling
telecomasia.net

South Korean regulator KCC has again fined all three of the nation's mobile operators for offering smartphone subsidies beyond the legal limits.

SK Telecom, KT and LG U+ have been fined a combined 3.4 billion won ($3 million) for continuing to provide illegal subsidies, the JoongAng Daily reported.

SK Telecom has been hit with a 930 million won fine, KT has been fined 870 million and LG U+ has been penalized 1.59 billion won.

LG U+ received the largest fine for being the first to offer illegal deals and continuing to do so even after its rivals suspended theirs, and even after the KCC announced that the deals are illegal, the report states.

LG customers were offered heavy discounts if they swapped a new phone for an old device in good condition. According to the KCC, there was nothing wrong with this policy in itself, but it violated regulations partly because the policy was only offered to customers on high-end monthly plans.

SK Telecom and KT's fines also likewise revolve around only offering discounts to subscribers to high-end plans.

In October, the KCC implemented new regulations mandating monthly adjustments to the maximum subsidy cap mobile operators and handset makers can offer, and limitations preventing operators from offering heavily-discounted devices to only part of the population.

The regulator had previously fined the nation's operators on multiple occasions for violating subsidy caps, and even ordered temporary suspensions on signing up new customers as a penalty for the practice.

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