Fri, Aug 11, 2006 - Page 11 News List

PC Home attracts more users

BENEFICIARY The local backlash against Yahoo-Kimo's proposal to start charging fees has driven more users to register with PC Home and eBay's joint venture auction site

By Jessie Ho  /  STAFF REPORTER

PC Home Online (網路家庭), a local Internet portal which has formed a joint venture with eBay Inc's Taiwan unit, said yesterday that the number of users registering for its online auction site has increased sharply after its bigger rival, Yahoo-Kimo Inc (雅虎奇摩), announced a new charge scheme.

"We have increased our bandwidth and capacity to meet the new traffic," company chairman Jan Hung-tze (詹宏志) said at a media briefing. "We have no plans to charge users before the service is mature, at least for the first three years of operation."

Jan did not reveal the number of user additions after Yahoo-Kimo, Taiwan's largest online auctioneer, announced last month that it would start charging sellers a transaction handling fee -- 3 percent of the concluding price -- on top of a listing fee of NT$3 per item.

However, strong opposition to the plan and criticism from users forced Yahoo-Kimo to postpone the implementation date from yesterday to Sept. 1. Despite the delay, the Fair Trade Commission said it was investigating whether Yahoo-Kimo may have engaged in price fixing over the transaction handling fee.

The commission has asked the Ministry of Economic Affairs and the Institute for Information Industry to determine the market share of Yahoo-Kimo in the online auction market, Chou Ya-shu (周雅淑), a commission member, said yesterday.

If Yahoo-Kimo is a monopoly or oligopoly auctioneer in the market and abuses its dominant position to charge consumers, the company may be fined a maximum of NT$25 million (US$767,200), she said.

PC Home and eBay Taiwan announced in June that the two would team up and launch a new auction site before the end of the year. Jan was elected as chairman of the new venture at the first board meeting held two weeks ago, and Arthur Lee (李宏麟), president of PC Home, was elected as president.

Of the five board seats, PC Home took three and eBay got the other two, according to Jan.

Jan remained tight-lipped about the exact date for the service's launch, merely saying that "everything is on schedule."

The two companies are integrating their systems to facilitate the transition of users of both sites to the new platform without having to change their user names and passwords, Jan said.

To encourage users to move from other auction platforms, PC Home is also mulling accepting ratings that users have accumulated in other sites. But before that, PC Home would need to come up with an identification measure to check these applicants' identities, Jan said.

Separately, since the Ministry of Finance announced new regulations on taxation for online transactions in May last year, 306 business operators, including individuals and companies, had registered with the Taipei National Tax Administration by the end of June, the administration said yesterday.

Revenues from their online transactions, including auctions, during the 13 months to June totaled NT$22.52 billion (US$691 million).

These operators, including PC Home and the nation's largest online bookstore, books.com.tw (博客來網路書店), paid NT$253.5 million in value-added tax (VAT) during the period, Chen Wen-tzong (陳文宗), deputy director-general of the Taipei Tax Administration, said.

Chen urged sellers who haven't registered yet to do so as soon as possible to avoid being fined for tax evasion.

Tax rates applied to online transactions are on par with those for brick-and-mortar stores.

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