Kelvin MacKenzie and Rupert Murdoch have taken an initiative that is beyond parody: they have set up a consumer complaint website whose aim, according to the former Sun editor, is ‘to force companies and politicians to do the right thing’.
It’s called A Spokesman Said and it channels and monitors complaints to big companies, more than 100 of which, including Toyota, Aviva and GoCompare, have already apparently registered.
Yet although A Spokesman Said encourages companies to take advantage of what is a ‘simple interface for you to communicate directly with customers in order to resolve their issues’ no newspaper group appears to have signed up.
Conspicuously absent from the list of companies ready to be allocated scores for their complaints handling is News UK, whose Sun and Times papers have millions of consumers every day. News UK is of course owned by Murdoch, who isreported to have put up money to back MacKenzie’s site.
Nor has MacKenzie, the cheeky-chappie former Sun editor who will forever be associated with the Hillsborough outrage, persuaded his other former employers in the newspaper industry, the publishers of the Mirror (Trinity Mirror) and the Mail (Associated), to register.
What more eloquent proof could there be that these companies are not interested in giving their consumers the power to ‘force them to do the right thing’?
The pages of A Spokesman Said, moreover, are loaded with lines that Murdoch, MacKenzie and their friends in the management of the leading national newspaper companies would choke on if they were applied to their own industry. Here are just a few:
‘We believe that it is too easy for companies to ignore the issues of individuals.’
Lord Justice Leveson drew the same conclusion about the press, and Parliament and the public agreed. Yet MacKenzie’s friends (he is back at the Sun as a columnist) refused to act on the judge’s recommendations. In other words they not only ignore the issues of individuals, but of judges, public inquiries, our democratic representatives and the population as a whole.
‘The focus is on getting a solution for each complaint on an individual basis.’
Again this was Leveson’s view, but the press industry takes a different approach: for example, of the nearly 13,000 individual complaints received by its self-regulator in 2013, only 15 were upheld.
‘Our aim is simple: to encourage fair and prompt resolution to complaints by airing them in public. Firms and institutions who do the right thing – and promptly – will be rewarded with a positive customer Powerscore. Those that fail will be ranked accordingly – for everyone to see.’
Precisely the kind of transparency that Leveson called for, and which the press industry has always rejected. IPSO, the industry’s PCC retread, is as transparent as a concrete block, and there is no sign of it delivering any public ranking of papers by their performance in code compliance.
‘Companies that do not handle complaints quickly and adequately will receive poor scores.’
Quickly and adequately? Delay is built into the IPSO system with newspapers given astonishing opportunities to sandbag complainants. The objective, as Leveson put it, is to create ‘complaint fatigue’, leaving wronged individuals so weary and frustrated that they give up or settle for a paltry remedy.
And on the subject of remedies, A Spokesman Said is bold enough to invite complainants to name the ‘ideal solution’ to their grievances, offering a variety of suggestions. They include:
‘I want this practice to stop’and‘I want an independent investigation’.
Everything about IPSO is designed to ensure that no complaint is ever capable of altering the behaviour of the newspapers. The entire culture and structure of the body is dedicated to hushing up problems so that abuses can continue. As for independent investigations, they are anathema to the press companies and IPSO is designed to ensure that all investigations are ultimately controlled by the company managements.
This post originally appeared on the Hacked Off website and is reproduced with permission and thanks