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No.527 2007.11.01 Seoul YWCA
It is possible to obtain a refund for skin care services if they are canceled before consumers have used less than 5% of the service.

Press Release No. 527, Issued on 1 Nov. 2007

Seoul YWCA

It is possible to obtain a refund for skin care services if they are canceled before consumers have used less than 5% of the service.
- Results of the survey of the use of skin care centers and analysis of the   indications and advertisements in the advertisement bills -

The Information Center at Seoul YWCA (President: Kim-Hyeong) conducted a survey of the reality of the use of skin care centers and their service charges as well as the contents of the advertisement bills and advertisements. The demand for fitness and skin care services has recently increased greatly and been popularized with the rapid increase in consumer interest in health and beauty. Related to this, consumer complaints have been on the rise (35% increase in complaints reports from the previous year), but the issue of damage to consumers has not been resolved properly because the facts have not been confirmed due to the absence of proper contracts.

Therefore, Seoul YWCA conducted a survey of the service charges (for facial massage and physical management), the actual operation of skin care centers, the contents of the advertisement bills, and the reality of advertisement for the 200 skin care centers in the 25 districts of Seoul in order to prevent the potential damage caused by skin care services and to propose ways of improving the situation.

Period of survey: Sep. 13, 2007 ~ Sep. 21, 2007

Objects and Methods of the Survey  

- Each group, composed of 2 monitors, visited the 200 skin care centers in the    25 districts of Seoul and held interviews in order to conduct a survey.  
- The 98 advertisement sheets collected during the visits to the skin care centers    were analyzed.

Contents of the Survey

1) Price survey: Survey of the service change for facial massages (basic, whitening, pimple&sensitive, wrinkle&aging), physical management (back, abdomen, foot care, vital pathways in the body).

2) Survey of the current situation: Surveys on the posting of qualifications, issuance of contracts and notification of prices; whether refunds are available in case of a mid contract cancellation, and, if so, whether there is adequate notification of the conditions for refund; transaction methods; issuance of cash receipts; and false medical practices.

3) Advertisement survey: Analyze the advertisement bills collected during visits to skin care centers or the contents of advertisements.

Survey Results

The results of the survey can be summarized as follows:

(1) Results of the survey of the service charge for skin care: the service charges differed considerably among centers.

- The contracts were made in units of 10 skin beauty services, so a lump sum of money is paid for a long-term service. Consequently, there is considerable scope for conflict regarding refunds in the case of cancellation of the contract for services due to side effects arising during the contract period, dissatisfaction with the services, or personal circumstances.

- The comparison of service charges for skin care among the 200 centers located in Seoul showed that the average fee for the 7 major services (basic facial massage, whitening, pimples, wrinkle & aging, upper body massage, lower body massage and foot care) was most expensive in Gangnam-gu District at 363,300 won, and cheapest in Geumcheon-gu District at 207,300 won. As such, the most expensive service was 1.8 times the price of the cheapest one.

- There was a great gap in price even among individual skin care centers: the center where the fees for the 7 services were most expensive (Jeong Soo-Gyeong Esthetic in Seocho-dong, Seocho-gu District: 700,000 won) was 5 times more expensive than the cheapest skin care center.

(2) Results of the Reality Survey on the Use of Skin Care Centers

First, many places are posting the wrong certificates.

   - According to the current Law on Public Hygiene, which classifies skin care centers and fitness centers as beauty shops, only persons with a beauty specialist license can open a shop and they must post their license in the shop. However, among the 200 centers, only 71 (35.5%) posted their license, and even then they posted licenses for foot massage, obesity fitness care and muscle care specialists, while only a few had the relevant license.

Second, they neglect to issue contracts.

- Most of the centers surveyed (91.5%) do not issue a formal contract to customers but instead issue membership cards and coupons to monitor the volume of usage. It has been reported that if customers use the services without contracts, they are not liable to be compensated properly when they ask for a cancellation mid way through the contract or a refund as there are no precise notifications about the criteria or conditions for refund.

Third, there is no proper indication of prices.

- Only 64.5% (129 centers) of the objects of the survey posted the price of their services on a wall or in a catalog or menus, while others only name their prices when they meet with the customers. Furthermore, besides the prices notified during meetings with customers, a considerable amount of extra costs were charged for special kinds of cosmetics and additional services.

Fourth, it is impossible to obtain a refund for unused services in the event of a cancellation mid way through a contract.

- Only 5% (10 centers) indicated whether it is possible for the customers of the skin care centers to obtain a refund if they cancel the service prematurely due to personal circumstances. The current regulations on compensation for damages incurred by customers by skin care services stipulate that they can obtain a refund for used services after deducting a 10% penalty of the total unused fee, but in reality there are few cases where they actually get a refund.

Fifth, illegal medical practices for semi-permanent tattoos, skin peeling, etc.

- Among the 200 centers 92 (46%) were practicing illegal medical operations such as semi-permanent tattooing, skin peeling, intestinal irrigation and diet-related operations. While such practices are evidently illegal according to the special law on the control of criminal health practices, they are being carried out openly and evade crackdown, causing damage to customers such as harmful side effects.

(3) Results of the analysis of the indications in advertisement bills or explanations: Untrustworthy advertisement.

- According to the analysis of the advertisements placed in the retrieved advertisement bills of the 98 centers, 41.2% exaggerated the therapeutic effects and efficiency of the services they offer (ex: lose up to 7~8kg a month with a high-tech system, 100% lifting effect), and 21.5% advertised that it is possible to cure certain diseases (improvements in blood circulation, male stamina increase, intestinal function and nervous system). In addition, superlative expressions such as ‘the highest,’ ‘the best’ or ‘the first’ were used (24.1%), ridiculously high prices were set before offering a considerable discount in order to blind potential customers (7.7%), and expressions associating the center with a specific examination or certification by public agencies were used to mislead consumers (5.5%).

※ On the basis of the results of the survey, we would like to make the following recommendations:

1. Introduce a certification system for skin care specialists and strengthen the management system.

- The practitioners lack expertise as there is not yet a specific certification system in place for a national level license. As such, it is high time that the introduction and establishment of the certification system for skin care specialists now under progress is realized as early as possible.

- Administrative agencies and consumer organizations must make more effort to enable and maintain sound business transactions through continuous supervision, and they must enforce a crackdown on service charges and false or exaggerated advertisements.

- A systematic institution and specific measures must be prepared as soon as possible to ensure that important information is stated clearly for customers and contracts issued without fail.

2. Prepare standard articles that specifically stipulate transactions concerning skin beauty services.

- While there are now specific criteria in the Law of Public Hygiene Control that regulate the standard of hygiene, the scope of the works of skin beauty practitioners, and the qualifications required for practitioners of the beauty business, there are no institutional criteria related to transactions with customers: as such, detailed criteria are necessary to regulate contracts and transactions with regard to such services.

3. A thorough crackdown on illegal medical practices is necessary.  

- The government is required to come up with clear standards for beauty and medical practices such as tattooing and skin peeling and thoroughly supervise and control illegal medical practices in order to prevent damage and distress to consumers caused by illegal operations.

4. Autonomous improvement by the industry is necessary.

- Korea Central Esthetician’s Association is required to conduct education programs by itself in order to autonomously improve the conditions so that consumers can use skin care services without any problems arising.

5. PR activities to prevent damage to consumers.

- On the consumers’ side, they, too, need to arm themselves with prior knowledge of the related regulations in order to avoid being misled by false or exaggerated advertisements. Active PR activities are wholly necessary with regard to this matter.

Contact for inquiry (person in charge): Mgr. Eun-ju Choi at Dept. of Consumer Environment (02-3705-6065) 


#701, Seoul YWCA, 1-1, Myeongdong 1-ga, Jung-gu, Seoul, (Postal code: 100-021)
  TEL 82-2-774-4050   FAX 82-2-774-4090   E-mail: sohyub@consumer.or.kr