Ethical Marketing or Not? – You Decide.

 
At the end of a trek in Morocco I had a few days rest in Marrakech.  While walking across the main square a street seller tried to interest me in a large knife with an elaborately decorated handle and leather scabbard. 

He pointed out the skill and craftsmanship in the design – I told him that had no interest and thanked him.  My English politeness must have been taken as a buying signal, because he persisted and was again politely rebutted. 

At this point he drew the knife from its scabbard to show me the strength and sharpness of the blade.  With a slight tinge of fear and not wishing to see a practical demonstration, I diplomatically and politely (but with the required gravity), assured him that this was indeed an excellent knife – however I had no need for it.

I had the same feeling again this morning following a telesales call from the NatWest Bank.  Would I be interested in switching my mortgage if I could be given a better deal?  I am eight years into a 15 year loan that I have overpaid so the remaining balance is low.  Still the sales girl was keen to do a deal so I gave her a little more information and she went away to discuss this with the mortgage adviser.

In less than three minutes the phone rang.  It seems that because of the small outstanding balance and the £2000 set up fee a mortgage swap would not be viable.  I thought that would be the end of it, but no.  “What about household insurance, when is the renewal?” the sales girl asked.  She persisted further, “I see on your account that you have a credit card, I can offer you one with a better rate of interest?”  I then realised that transactions on my bank statement were being used as the basis of the call.  It felt very uncomfortable, not quite the Marrakech experience, but close.

The lesson from this is that we all like to be buyers, but hate pressure selling to us.  This is especially so when the seller has an unfair advantage.  Is this legitimate and honest?  Is it right that a seller should use confidential information for their advantage?   Should the scope of the Unfair Commercial Practices Directive (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Unfair_Commercial_Practices_Directive) be extended to cover this kind of abuse of confidential commercial information?

Kevin Ainsworth, Partner, Ainsworth Maguire Public Relations

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