Marketing Matters Jan/Feb 2016 ISSUE 48. Thank you for your continued support, you can find more articles on

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Investigators in Germany are probing the role in the VW emissions scandal played by Stuttgart-based Robert Bosch, the large vehicle parts supplier which supplied the software that VW used to cheat emission tests. Bosch say that they were aware that their diesel emission treatment systems supplied to VW could be used to cheat emission tests, but that they were not aware that VW was using them for that purpose, in 11 million cars.

Meanwhile, back in the UK, more stringent and harder to cheat emission tests carried out by consumer group Which? have indicated that 95% of diesel cars are emitting illegal levels of nitrogen oxide and that two-thirds of petrol cars emit illegal levels of carbon monoxide, with one vehicle emitting five times the legal limit, the Hyundai Velostar.



o Royal Mail has been fined £40 million by the French authorities for the participation in an illegal 20-company price-fixing cartel by its parcel subsidiary GLS.

The Autorite de la Concurrence found that secret and unrecorded talks on rigged pricing of parcel services had taken place amongst some members of the powerful French trade association Union des Enterprises de Transport et de Logistics de France (TLF) at TLF meetings between 2004 and 2010. Also fined were TLF members Fedex, fined £12 million, TNT, fined £42 million and DHL, fined £59 million. A total of £489 million in fines was levied on the cartel.


o Energy company npower has been censured by industry regulator Ofgem for billing and complaint handling failures, and has been forced to pay £26 million as a customer redress package. The money will be given to some of npower's worst-affected customers, and to charity.

Ofgem revealed that npower's flawed billing procedures between September 2013 and December 2014 generated more than 2 million complaints, which were not dealt with within a reasonable timeframe, and affected more than 500,000 npower customers, with some being dealt with aggressively by npower over disputed payments.


Consumer anger continues to build up over the way that large companies such as Google, Facebook, Apple, Netflix and Mondelez (owners of Cadbury) can easily, and currently legally manipulate their accounts for their UK operations to pay little or no tax on billions of pounds of profits made here. Paying no corporation tax at all are huge and hugely profitable investment banks such as JP Morgan, Bank of America-Merrill Lynch, Deutsch Bank AG, Nomura Holdings and Morgan Stanley.

In the case of the banks there is a feeling that the sector has already been parasitic enough on the British taxpayer, courtesy of the British government, without grabbing more off them with aggressive tax-avoidance schemes.

Note: Google have recently agreed to pay £130 million in back taxes, an amount some MPs have described as derisory.

Tax evasion however has earned jail sentences for three investment bankers, an accountant formerly with Ernst and Young as well as a former chairman of the South Wales branch of the Institute of Taxation and an independent financial adviser. All were involved in a £2.2 million tax fraud linked to the film industry. (The Business Desk)

Bogus film companies that rich professionals could invest in were set up, which then posted fraudulently documented "losses" that the investors could use to offset against their tax liability, gaining £40,000 from the taxpayer for every £20,000 invested.


Consumers have been warned of the dangers of buying and drinking counterfeit spirits.

Some of the hundreds of thousands of bottles seized by Trading Standards have contained dangerous and potentially lethal substances such as chloroform, which can induce comas, ethyl acetate, used in glues, nail polish removers and cigarettes, and isopronal, an ingredient of car screen-wash and anti-freeze.

Counterfeit electrical goods can also be deadly, and exploding fake Apple iPhone chargers have caused serious house fires.

Consumer charity Electrical Safety First has also warned about fake GHD hair-straighteners, sold on the internet for 10% less than the normal price to allay suspicion, which can spark and catch fire during use. The charity warns that up to 20% of fake electrical items explode when tested and has some free advice on its website.


A fine of £850,000 has been handed down by the Claims Management Regulator to a personal injury claims firm that made nearly 6 million unsolicited phone calls to canvass for customers looking to claim for noise-induced hearing loss.

Ofcom received almost 2,000 complaints from subscribers to the Telephone Preference Service about the cold calls to them made by the impressive-sounding and Lancashire-based National Advice Clinic, whose cynical marketing strategy of nuisance calls was described by the regulator as "deliberate and sustained". The regulator also commented that the company "showed an alarming disregard for the misery their tactics can cause, particularly to elderly and vulnerable people".


Our government have now made it mandatory for companies making marketing calls to display their telephone number, rather than hide behind the 1471 announcement "We do not have the caller's number".

Campaigners looking to clean up the grubby area of telephone marketing have welcomed the move as a step in the right direction, as it will make it easier for consumers to report nuisance calls and for regulators to identify regular offenders.


A non-spill spoon has won its British creator and designer a £1,000 prize in a design competition to find innovative new products to help those with mental or physical disabilities.

The S'up Spoon, which has a deeper set bowl that partly extends into the handle, is designed for use by those whose hands are shaky and was conceived by computer science graduate Grant Douglas, who has had cerebral palsy since birth. It was designed by Mark Penver from 4c Design and the world-wide competition was sponsored by housing and care provider Blackwood, who will be backing the product with legal and marketing advice.


It doesn't take much to make some business types happy, it seems.

An honorary doctorate was recently bestowed by Birmingham City University on Jim McCarthy, CEO for the budget shops Poundland and 99p Store, for his well-rewarded services to industry.

"To say that I am flattered and delighted would be a significant understatement. I am very grateful and immensely proud" McCarthy said as he received one of the worthless honours, bestowed to generate publicity for academia.


Is there anyone left out there stupid enough to trust celebrity endorsements from paid "brand ambassadors".

Clearly Typhoo tea think there is, having paid the lovely, languid and sincere Nigella Lawson lots of dosh to fulsomely praise its cups of rosie on TV, the same toe-curling job she did as a brand ambassador back in 2008 for rival tea firm Twinings.

Meanwhile cultured readers are urged not to enjoy the very rude internet production Nigella Talks Dirty, an over-dubbed version of one of her TV appearances, but not featuring anyone's tea, not yet anyway...



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Peter Cotterell
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