While the desire to make sales can lead businesses to cover up undesirable truths, SME leaders are by and large an honest bunch, a poll has revealed. But almost one in seven have admitted to bending the truth in their dealings with customers.
A straw poll on the My Business website in August posed the question, “Have you ever lied to a customer to make a sale?”
The results were pretty conclusive, with 76 per cent stating no, and a further 9 per cent responding with “possibly but I can’t remember”.
That left a small but not insignificant 15 per cent – almost one in seven – confessing to bending the truth in order to get a sale over the line.
The question arose after My Business experienced first-hand a salesperson at an SME retailer stating that a product was Australian made, despite labels on the product in-store clearly stating “Made in China”.
Bending the truth not just unethical
Consciences are not the only things that can suffer damage from telling porkies.
Consumer watchdog ACCC is cracking down on businesses providing false and misleading information to customers, which can attract substantial financial penalties.
This can come in the form of providing inaccurate product information, as demonstrated by legal proceedings against Landmark Operations Limited over claims it made to farmers and retailers, or by manipulating reviews, which has cost property giant Meriton a hefty $3 million in penalties.
Another common complaint of the ACCC is businesses that mislead customers about their rights in relation to product warranties and returns. One recent example of this was global technology behemoth Apple, which copped a $9 million penalty for telling hundreds of customers their right to a repair or replacement was void because they had used third-party repairers.
In November last year, a warning was issued specifically to clothing retailers after a flood of complaints about returns procedures.
“Businesses are not allowed to make statements that are incorrect or likely to create a false impression,” the ACCC states on its website.
“This rule applies to their advertising, their product packaging, and any information provided to you by their staff or online shopping services. It also applies to any statements made by businesses in the media or online, such as testimonials on their websites or social media pages.”
Adam Zuchetti is the editor of My Business, and has steered the publication’s editorial direction since early 2016.