Have you been on the receiving end of unethical marketing practices? Whether it is misleading advertising, or false testimonials, a number of businesses adopt unethical marketing activities in order to promote themselves, and compete in an increasingly crowded marketplace. Fraudulent advertising practices have recently become the target of a number of investigations being undertaken by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) as noted in BRW March 21-27. So far, the investigations have led to businesses being fined tens of thousands of dollars, and receiving a substantial amount of negative publicity.
Here are some of the main culprits:
Businesses that publish fake reviews and testimonials
False product reviews are becoming big business, with some companies paying individuals to write false testimonials and positive reviews of their business, and even posting false negative reviews of their competitors. At the moment, false reviews are difficult to identify and penalise, but there are a number of different organisations that are working on creating ways to identify and remove false reviews from product review sites.
Businesses that use false or misleading advertising
Recently, internet provider TPG was in the media for a misleading television advertising campaign in which they promoted a broadband internet package for $29.95 per month, without mentioning that line rental of $30 a month was also required. Other big businesses that have been pulled up for misleading advertising include Google and Apple.
Businesses that dominate the online space
Increasing numbers of big businesses are implementing uncompetitive online marketing practices to push their smaller counterparts out. The ACCC is targeting businesses that dominate concentrated marketplaces, and impede smaller businesses from carrying out their online activities.
Ethics concern an individual’s moral judgements about right and wrong. Decisions taken within an organisation may be made by individuals or groups, but whoever makes them will be influenced by the culture of the company. The decision to behave ethically is a moral one; employees must decide what they think is the right course of action. This may involve rejecting the route that would lead to the biggest short-term profit.
As a small business, it is important to be aware of some of the potential issues you may face as a result of disreputable marketing practices. Make sure you are not using any unethical marketing strategies yourself, or your business may end up facing fines and penalties in the future. Your best defence against unethical marketing practices is to present a consistent brand image, which is reinforced by the quality of your product or service.