The Korea Herald


‘Mergepoint saga could speed up passage of e-payment act revision’

By Park Ga-young

Published : Aug. 19, 2021 - 17:34

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People line up in front of the headquarters of Mergeplus to demand a refund from the company in Seoul on Aug. 13. (Yonhap) People line up in front of the headquarters of Mergeplus to demand a refund from the company in Seoul on Aug. 13. (Yonhap)

Politicians have started to look closely into a snowballing fiasco of prepaid discount service Mergepoint on Thursday, raising expectations that it could help speed up the passage of a revision to the controversial e-payment law. The revised Electronic Financial Transaction Act (EFTA) has been pending at the National Assembly for nine months.

Park Wan-joo, the policy committee chairman of the ruling Democratic Party, said the government and the ruling party were taking the case very seriously and are putting in their best efforts to come up with measures that would minimize damage to customers and franchisees.

“In the light of the (Mergepoint) incident, we will make efforts to identify and inspect other similar cases related to the EFTA,” Park said. “The government and the party will focus on eliminating blind spots under the laws of the EFTA and the Online Platform Law.”

Park’s comments reflect growing calls to pass the revision to the EFTA, a key law that governs new payment methods such as digital payments.

On Wednesday, the Bank of Korea, the country’s central bank, urged authorities to take swift action so as to reinforce customer protection.

The major overhaul of the 17-year-old law has come to a standstill partly due to the disagreement between the Financial Services Commission and the Bank of Korea as the revision is widely believed to give the financial watchdog bigger control on electronic payment services.

On the same day, financial authorities asked the police to launch an investigation into Mergeplus, the operator of Mergepoint, saying the company failed to respond to the FSC’s request for income statements. This means that financial authorities are unwilling to wait for the company to get registered as a proper business, which Mergeplus promised to do by the end of August.

“In order to get registered as an electronic financial transaction operator, a company has to file various documents including the income statement. We requested Mergeplus to summit these documents but they remained silent,” an official at a financial authority said.

Mergeplus launched Mergepoint, an electronic payment service, in 2018. Consumers can buy Mergepoints for 20 percent less than their face value, and use them in local retail franchises, convenience stores and coffee shops.

The service attracted more than 1 million deal seekers. However, the demise of the company began when the company suddenly halted the sales of the Mergepoint and decreased the number of stores where customers can use their points last week, following warnings from financial authorities.