Samsung alleged to have hired students to criticise HTC online

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Taiwanese authorities said Monday they had launched an investigation into allegations that South Korean tech giant Samsung hired students to post malicious comments about local rival HTC online.

"The case was set up last week after we received complaints," Fair Trade Commission spokesman Sun Lih-chyun told AFP.

He said the probe would look into allegations that Samsung engaged in false advertising and that if the allegations were upheld, Samsung and its local advertising agent could face a fine of up to Tw$25 million ($835,000).

Complaints emerged this month, with Internet users alleging that Samsung, through its local agent, had hired students to write online articles attacking HTC and recommending Samsung cellphones, the United Evening News said.

When asked about the allegations, an official at Samsung Taiwan said the company had not been informed of the investigation by the Fair Trade Commission.

But in a statement on its Facebook page, www.facebook.com/SamsungTaiwan, Samsung Taiwan said it regretted "any inconvenience and confusion from the Internet event".

"Samsung Taiwan has halted all Internet marketing such as posting articles on websites," it said.

Samsung was fined Tw$300,000 by the commission earlier this year for a misleading advertisement about the camera functions on Samsung's Galaxy Y Duos GT-S6102, according to Taiwan's state Central News Agency.

According to research firm IDC, Samsung held a 30.3 percent share of the global smartphone market in 2012, while Apple had 19.1 percent and HTC 4.6 percent.

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