Dear Aunty B,
Yesterday, I found a leaflet from one of my competitors in my mailbox.
Their leaflet mentions my business by name, and then proceeds to make a number of false claims about my company.
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For example, it says my products are low-quality imports when, in fact, my products are all Australian made.
It also says that I use a lower grade of ingredients in our products than I actually do.
It then says that my business is not licenced or a member of the relevant industry body when it is.
It then quotes their price up against the “competitor’s price” – anyone looking at the leaflet would think it’s my prices, even though they’re not.
I’ve worked hard to build the good name of my business and I’m outraged by this leaflet. It’s downright defamatory!
But I’m not sure where I should go next. Should I call the ACCC? Can I sue them? Is contacting the media a better option? Or should I take matters into my own hands with a leaflet of my own?
Dear Paper-thin patience,
This sounds like straight-up defamation! You need to take action quickly to prevent any permanent damage being done to your business’s reputation.
The first point of call is always to contact your lawyer. I’m not a lawyer myself, and in matters like this all trusted advice should come from a professional.
That said I do know you need to be careful. I imagine you probably have more than one competitor, so you’d better narrow down who you think has actually sent this message and have some pretty solid proof before giving them a serve.
Also, have a think about whether or not you have any disgruntled customers, or simply someone who you’ve had a recent argument with. You need to work out if there is anyone else who could have a bone to pick with you before jumping to conclusions. Assumptions are dangerous.
Avoid going to the media at this point. As desperate as you must be to tell your side of the story, if you get it wrong you’ll have your own defamation suit on your hands, and I daresay that’s not something you want. The legal fees for one thing are nasty.
By all means go to the ACCC, but your own industry body might also be a good place to start. Being a member, they should have someone who can help you out and provide some advice on the best course of action.
You can also publish a notice on your business’s website alerting customers to the fact there is a pamphlet circulating which contains incorrect information about your business. Assure them your products are Australian made, that you are a member of your industry body and provide a link to the real prices of your products.
If publishing this notice on your website isn’t enough, you could send a pamphlet of your own with all the correct information – but I’d recommend not engaging in any kind of war games.
Your Aunty B