Taiwan firm fined for featuring Japanese porn actress on metro smartcards

Taiwan firm fined for featuring Japanese porn actress on metro smartcards
A woman uses a prepaid Easycard to rent a Youbike bicycle outside the Taipei City Hall in Taipei.
PHOTO: Reuters

TAIPEI, Taiwan - The Fair Trade Commission on Wednesday fined EasyCard Corp., producer of the controversial special-edition metro cards featuring Japanese porn actress Yui Hatano, NT$500,000 for false advertising.

According to the FTC, Easycard Corp. violated the Fair Trade Act for placing an advert on its website for a sale via telephone hotline last August, which misleadingly stated it will be selling more cards than were truly on offer.

The advertisement stated there were 15,000 sets of "Hatano cards" containing 30,000 cards each, when fewer than 12,000 sets of cards were sold in actuality. The firm later announced that all 15,000 cards had been snapped up in nearly four hours.

The remaining cards were either purchased by employees or distributed for public relations.

However, the firm failed to fulfil its obligation to disclose this information, and consequently deceived consumers, stated the FTC.

Critics Enraged

Near the end of August last year, EasyCard Corp. announced its decision to release limited-edition transit cards, themed "Angels and Demons," respectively featuring the porn star in black and white garments.

Major convenience stores refused to stock the controversial cards, and the Taipei City's women rights committee condemned the city government.

Amid outcries against the cards that emerged from critics, including parents, politicians and activists, Taipei Mayor Ko Wen-je in Aug. 31 told Taipei City councilors that he had demanded EasyCard Corp. scrap the cards altogether.

Ko also stated that the existing 30,000 cards cannot be "publicly sold."

Following Ko's announcement, the firm issued an apology and vowed to examine internal policies and to design management guidelines for producing cards in the future.

However, the firm's statement coincided with a hotline-only promotional sale of its remaining stock of Hatano EasyCards.

'Hantanogate' Scandal

Weeks into the controversy, as political haranguing over the issue continued, Tai Chi-chuan, then chairman of EasyCard Corp., resigned from the company.

Previously, Ko came under fire from Taipei City councilors for his initial decision to keep Tai in the company.

The Taipei City Government holds - directly and through the Taipei Rapid Transit Corporation (TRTC) - a 40-per cent stake in EasyCard Investment and has the power to appoint its chairman and senior management in the firm and EasyCard Corp.

Friction between the mayor and the council culminated on Sept. 17, when Kuomintang (KMT) Councilor Hsu Hung-ting insinuated that the mayor had "special relations" with Tai - a sexually suggestive term.

In response to the comment, Ko angrily slammed his fist onto a table, and the council meeting was adjourned early.

Ko later apologised to the council for his brash behaviour.

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