Taiwan's FTC to investigate claims Samsung paid students to defame HTC online

Taiwan's Fair Trade Commission (FTC) is set to investigate allegations that South Korean firm Samsung paid students to leave anonymous comments criticising the mobile products of local company HTC online.

The watchdog has said that it may penalise Samsung up to NT$25 million (roughly £500,000) if it feels the firm's 'dirty tricks' amount to a formal violation of fair trade rules.

The investigation is thought to have been prompted by accusations made by local website TaiwanSamsungLeaks, which claims to have published documents revealing Samsung backed the "malicious" and "defamatory" marketing practices.

Apparently, the unsavoury comments were posted incognito on local forums, covering everything from complaints about handsets like the HTC One X constantly crashing, to benchmark "reviews" that show Samsung products to be superior, and speculation that employers look favourably upon users of Samsung devices.

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

Samsung said it had yet to be notified of the FTC probe, but appeared to admit to the dubious activities on its Taiwanese Facebook page.

The South Korean company confirmed that the "unfortunate incident" did occur, but promised it was working to ensure such problems were not repeated.

"Samsung Electronics Taiwan (SET) has ceased all marketing activities that involve the posting of anonymous comments," it said in a statement via Facebook.

Samsung is committed to "transparent and honest communications with consumers," it added.

For its part, HTC said that it would be looking at "taking appropriate action" against its naughty regional rival.