The local unit of South Korea's Samsung Electronics Co. was fined $341,300 on Thursday for hiring people to write negative online comments about one of its competitors while posting positive reviews about its own products.
The investigation by Taiwan's Fair Trade Commission (FTC) began in April after the company was accused of using "a large number of hired writers and designated employees" to post negative comments about HTC, a Taiwanese company that manufactures smartphones, and positive comments about Samsung products in Taiwanese forums.
The FTC found that Samsung went through one of its Taiwan units, called Opentide, to pull off the marketing ploy, according to Agence France-Presse. The paid writers, hired through a third-party marketing company, and Samsung employees hid their true identities as they posted negative reports about One, HTC's flagship cellphone.
"This is the first case of its kind in Taiwan that a company has concealed its genuine status while attacking a rival," commission spokesman Sun Lih-chyun told AFP.
"The deceitful behavior has negative impacts on market order and violated the fair trade law."
When the investigation first started in April, Samsung issued the following statement:
"Samsung Electronics Taiwan (SET) has ceased all marketing activities that involve the posting of anonymous comments, and will ensure that all SET online marketing activities will be fully compliant with the company's Online Communications Credo," the statement read.
According to research firm IDC, Samsung led the world with a 30 percent share of the global smartphone market in 2012.