“I want them to be aware of the magnitude of their influence,” said director Hisa Anan at a press conference, “and to take great care in not writing irresponsible things.”
Earlier this month, Osaka and Kyoto prefectural police took the manager of the “penny auction” 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.
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. 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.”
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.
On March 31, 2011, the Consumer Affairs Agency warned three companies operating penny auction sites for violations related to the Law Against Unjustifiable Promotional Gifts and Misleading Representations.
Model Jun Komori, 27, comedian Yuji “Peace” Ayabe, 35, and 34-year-old actor Masaru Nagai have also admitted to having made similarly fake endorsements on auction sites.