Dubbo Photo News & Dubbo Weekender

Silence is golden when you’re a shareholder

The easiest thing a person can do is find fault in others, and large companies are magnets for complaints – particularly when they disappoint expectation and make you feel your sole purpose in dealing with them is to feed their shareholding machine.

In a recent speech delivered by Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) chair Rod Sims, he pondered why large companies might behave badly and what should be done about it.

From the start of his speech he lamented that, in the ACCC’s experience, the hope that bad behaviour was an exception to the rule was misplaced hope.

“It is often said that companies succeed by looking after the needs of their customers. I have been surprised over very many years, however, at the way in which many businesses often do precisely the opposite,” Mr Sims said.

He cited some recent examples which occurred in the space of one month.

“Ford was ordered to pay $10 million in penalties after it admitted that it had engaged in unconscionable conduct in the way it dealt with complaints about Power Shift transmission cars, sometimes telling customers that shuddering was the result of the customer’s driving style despite knowing the problems with these cars.

“Telstra was ordered to pay penalties of $10 million in relation to its third-party billing service known as ‘Premium Direct Billing’ under which it exposed thousands of its own mobile phone customers to unauthorised charges,” Mr Sims said.

“Thermomix paid penalties of over $4.5 million for making false or misleading representations to certain consumers through its silence about a safety issue affecting one of its products which the company knew about from a point in time.

“Flight Centre was ordered to pay $12.5 million in penalties for attempting to induce three international airlines to enter into price fixing agreements.

“Unfortunately, this is just the tip of the iceberg,” Mr Sims said.

The bigger an organisation, the easier it seems for wrong doings to hide in plain sight.

“Reckitt Benckiser made misleading representations on the packaging of each of its four Nurofen Specific Pain products which represented that each was specifically formulated to treat a particular type of pain when, in fact, each product contained the same active ingredient and was no more effective at treating the type of pain than any of the other Nurofen Specific Pain products. The key difference was that the specific pain products were near double the price of the standard Nurofen product,” Mr Sims said in his speech.

“Recently, Optus Internet admitted it made misleading representations to around 14,000 customers about their transition to the NBN,” he continued.

You get the picture. Lies, lies, lies; thuggery and cartel behaviours.

The big end of town has admitted to Mr Sims, he said, that it’s all about serving shareholders and they’re doing nothing wrong.

Mr Sims has recommended to the Government that penalties for breaching consumer laws are inadequate and he expects higher penalties will be passed in the August sittings.

Fingers crossed.

Yvette Aubusson-Foley

Yvette Aubusson-Foley is a Dubbo journo, who spent time living and raising her family in the USA, but has now returned to her home town.