On December 7, Osaka and Kyoto prefectural police took the manager of the site World Auction, Ryusuge Suzuki, 30, and three others into custody for allegedly utilizing fake bids to drive up prices on various consumer goods.
Pin-up models Aki Hoshino and Yoko Kumada have since publicly acknowledged to having received payments for making false claims regarding purchases of products on World Auction following a request from fellow bikini idol Yoko Matsukane.
On December 27, 2010, Hoshino, 35, wrote on her Web site that she was able to purchase an air filter for 1,080 yen in an endorsement of World Auction. The model, who received 300,000 yen for the endorsement, in fact made no such purchase.
Four days before, Yoko Kumada, 30, had falsely claimed to have purchased an oven range for 5,200 yen, her agency announced last week. The company is looking into whether Kumada was paid a commission.
“It was a rash and thoughtless action,” Hoshino wrote on her blog on December 13 in offering an apology. “I would like to offer everyone my most sincere apologies for the trouble I have caused.”
It is not clear what how World Auction is related to Matsukane, who posted on her site, also in December 2010, that she was able to use the site to purchase crockery for 199 yen.
Investigators were alerted to the matter after World Auction allegedly defrauded two women out of 6,000 yen. The site has more than 100,000 members and garnered commissions exceeding 10 million yen. The site was established in June 2010.
Penny auction sites charge users approximately 70 yen per bid as a handling fee. The concept was born in Germany in 2005. Four years later, complaints from consumers related to fraudulent practices by such sites increased rapidly in Japan. Fraudulent sites use computer programs and fake users to drive up prices to generate handling fees.
At least three other celebrities have since admitted to having made similarly fake endorsements.
Comedian Yuji “Peace” Ayabe, who is represented by Yoshimoto Kogyo, said on Thursday that he falsely claimed to have purchased a portable DVD player on his blog on January 24, 2011. The 35-year-old Ayabe, whose agency said he took down the post 25 hours after publishing it, received a commission of 50,000 yen.
Actor Masaru Nagai, 34, on Friday admitted to falsely claiming to have purchased an iPad on an auction site for 888 yen at the end of 2010.
The agency for entertainer Jun Komori, 27, announced on Saturday that her post in January of 2011 indicating that she bought a humidifier on the Gal Auction site for 225 yen was not true. She is reported to have received 400,000 yen in return for the endorsement.