Thursday, 15 September 2011

Corporate lies?

The Fraud Act is quite a small and manageable Act, for a change. It is one of the simpler laws. In a nutshell, and greatly simplified, if you knowingly make false statements for some gain then that is fraud and is criminal.

Thankfully, in practice, it has to be pretty clear that you have to be knowingly telling lies for it to matter. Having said that I am always wary of any laws after Paul Chambers was done for a "menacing communication" which was only menacing when the judge (seemingly) deliberately considered it out of context. The fact that the thousands of re-tweeters broke the same law and have not been convicted shows how much of a sham it is. But that is just what makes me nervous of a law that could put any of us in jail for an optimistic or badly worded comment.

That aside, I have to wonder when a supplier makes a clearly false statement, e.g. that "dig work started today at 12:10hrs and engineer is currently working". Clearly the person sending that to their customer (us) did not know it was false. They are passing on what they were told be colleagues. However, that surely cannot be a valid excuse? After all, the lie started somewhere within the company. Someone knowingly stated something untrue, presumably for some gain (even if just to get an extra tea break). The fact the messenger did not know has to be irrelevant else any business could conduct fraud by employing someone on the front line to just pass on messages.

Even so, it is a stretch to suggest it was fraud and far more likely to be incompetence. It would be quite gratifying if they have to say that they are incompetent to avoid claims that it was fraud :-)

But then I got thinking about something definitely more corporate and not some individual within a company. What if a company has a corporate wide policy to mislead its customers? For example, deliberately misrepresenting itself as being one of its own "suppliers" with the clear implication that they are a third party. The above lie about a dig starting was effectively blamed on "suppliers" when in fact it was the company in question itself.

Such a corporate policy of deliberate misrepresentation has to count as corporate fraud, surely? It is clearly a misrepresentation, and presumably for some gain. (If not for some gain then that means the directors are not acting in the best interests of the shareholders which is a separate matter under the Companies Act).

Even so, I am not sure reporting one's biggest supplier to the police is prudent.

At the end of the day, and the real reason for the rant, is that our customers are being messed about over and over again - and this crap just gets in the way and slows things down even more. I want our customers to have a good service, and much as I might like to I am not able to go dig the road up myself.

And, of course, this is very armchair law on my part...

10 comments:

  1. Armchair law perhaps but you also make an important point about the hypocrisy of how such situations are handled. On the other hand Paul Chambers was charged using different / terrorism related laws, which are known to be quite overzealous (to say the least). I'm not sure you could apply that to.. say.. BT :) .

    On the other hand if you could somehow prove that this had become a repeated and institutional problem that was deliberately misleading a client, such as yourselves, and causing harm (ideally financial harm) by doing so then that would be something that the courts could indeed take an interest in.

    Mark (ISPreview.co.uk)

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  2. Paul Chambers was not done under terrorist laws. They do not apply as the "threat" was clearly not credible and clearly a joke. He was done under telecoms laws (which clearly do apply to BT) and to every re-tweet of his post.

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  3. Oh, and Mark, if you quote me on this article, please be clear I am not saying which schizophrenic corporation I am annoyed at. I would not want to be accused of running a hate site after all.

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  4. Or someone read the wrong record/updated the wrong record and corrected it :P

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  5. Do you know it's actually BT employees digging up the road? That sort of stuff is often subbed out.

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  6. Hehe not to worry Adrian as there's not enough practical facts / information for this to reach our news; I just enjoy reading your blog too. Anyway thank god for people who speak their minds as otherwise ordinary consumers would never have any idea how much their ISPs have to deal with behind the scenes :) .

    But if ever you have a concern about something of yours that we've posted then just drop me an email, it's never a problem to fix.

    Mark

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  7. I did not say BT, but the company in question confirmed the name of their "supplier" and it was indeed themselves.

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  8. Did you pass on the erroneous message to your own customers before you knew it to be false? Ignorance is no defense in the eyes of the law you know. ;-)

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  9. Good grief... I am glad you have a smiley. As I am sure you know, the phrase is that "ignorance of the law is no defence". And in the case of fraud you do have to be knowingly lying, so in that case ignorance is a perfectly good defence!

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